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Diary of an NQT A man walked into a bar...

“TOM, I was wondering if you would compère the school talent show?” asks the head of music and performing arts (say no, say no, say no, say no, say no) – “sure, why not?” Glutton for punishment. I don’t

know why I keep doing this, but something about becoming a teacher has rendered me seemingly incapable of saying no.

Already this year, this

deficiency has resulted in me standing in a field in the pouring rain on a Saturday morning screaming like Sir Alex Ferguson, pretending to be a Colombian drug lord as camouflaged children spring out of bushes firing fake rounds at my face, and leading a team of screaming kids around Thorpe Park like an adrenaline-junky Pied Piper. And so I find myself in another

ludicrous situation and about to embark upon my performance debut. Some people were made for the stage – I was made for a comfy sofa. Equally, some people, I am sure

– Terry Wogan or Fern Cotton for example – have not a single fear of standing up in front of thousands in an auditorium or millions at home. However, for me, 200 people in a school hall promised nothing but the unmitigated terror of total – and very public – failure. What if my flies came undone? As I was about to go on, I felt the sort of

nervous terror I last felt when I was a kid. Walking out in front of the bright lights to nothing but a deafening silence and wielding a microphone felt like the bravest thing I had done for years. What if I wasn’t funny? What if I totally froze? But then I very quickly realised that I was the least important part: the children about to

perform were much braver and infinitely more talented. After a slightly shaky start, I got into it and towards the end they practically had to force me to let go of the mic. My average jokes went down surprisingly well – I didn’t manage to cause an international incident (despite my co-host inadvertently breaking up a relationship) and as far as I know I had no trouser malfunctions. One of the wonderful things about

working in a school is the numerous, ever-changing and plentiful opportunities to get yourself into ridiculous situations. You might be just a teacher but you also get a chance to try your hand at being a

military commander, football manager, presenter, journalist, editor, charity fundraiser, conductor and director all without changing buildings. How many other careers can offer that? Not only did I enjoy myself and tick off a new experience, but I also managed to understand another area of the school and why

it is so important. As an NQT it can be tough sometimes to see past your next lesson and your next week. Looking beyond just trying to become a half-decent teacher doesn’t always give you a chance to see the whole workings of a school – all the little

nooks and crannies where students find their niche and grow their passions. It just goes to show that academic success

isn’t the be-all and end-all: if we can get a kid to be enthused by something, even if it is outside of the classroom and the subject we love, then that is perhaps the truest of victories we can have.

• Tomas Duckling is a history NQT at Queens’ School in Hertfordshire. He returns next week.

Farewell Chartered Teacher Once a teacher...

SCOTLAND’S EDUCATION secretary Mike Russell has announced the scrapping of the Chartered Teacher scheme. That was no surprise. The proposal came from the McCormac Review of teachers’ conditions of service. Nonetheless it will hurt many existing Chartered

Teachers and has already been opposed by the main teachers’ union, the EIS. The original purpose of the Chartered Teacher concept, introduced with the McCrone reforms, was to recognise, in status and financial terms, the value of in-depth professional development by teachers who did not wish to pursue promotion but to stay in the classroom and apply the practice their additional study had developed. One of the major criticisms

of the Chartered Teacher concept, from the outset, was from the employers. The local authorities were unhappy about a situation which automatically gave a teacher an increased salary without being appointed to a promoted post by the authority. It reduced the local authority’s capacity to plan its teacher salary bill. One trusts that such a petty accountant’s quibble was not fundamental to the education secretary’s decision. The two serious matters which

are relevant to this issue are the principles on which teachers are remunerated and the capacity of such initiatives to raise the quality of teaching across schools. The introduction of the Chartered

Teacher grade can be seen as a retrograde step. Once Scottish honours graduates were paid more than ordinary graduates and ordinary graduates more than diplomates, a nasty, divisive system, rooted in academic snobbery. It also, of course, bore no relation to the quality of the work produced. Honours graduates were not, per se, the best teachers. There were also special payments. At one point

learning support teachers (remedial teachers as they were then known) were paid an additional allowance to attract good teachers to a lower status, more challenging area of work. It did not necessarily attract the right people for the right reasons. Such payments divided teachers and created

an invidious, carping culture. To a certain extent Chartered Teacher status returned that to schools.

What is true is that the Chartered Teacher

professional training offered experienced teachers a unique opportunity to develop both theoretical awareness and classroom skills. Good teachers have blossomed into excellent teachers as they pursued Chartered Teacher status. The problems are, first, that was not universal, and,

second, many whose skills were most enhanced then applied for promotions, the very opposite outcome from that intended on the scheme’s introduction. In any change there must be reasonable transitional arrangement and compensation for the commitments and costs already incurred by more than 2,000 current Chartered Teachers. There must also be more

demanding CPD expectations for Scottish teachers. It is not acceptable that, once a qualified teacher has completed his or her probationary year, there should be no further expectations of formal, high-level

professional development. School and local authority CPD

initiatives should be of a sufficient standard to carry credits for further qualifications. It does not necessarily mean pursuing courses similar to the Chartered Teacher’s or the MEd, although it could. It should include systematic research projects, or secondments to other schools, the local authority, university or other related professional settings. It should include an automatic right, after nine years of good service, to be given the 10th, on full salary, for such further

study or secondments. The biggest necessary change however is that such a rigorous

approach should not be for volunteers only but should be a contractual right and expectation. The Donaldson Review

offers the opportunity to revitalise the professionalism of Scottish teachers. That has to mean genuinely continuing professional development for all teachers.

• Alex Wood has been a teacher for 38 years. Prior to his recent retirement he was headteacher of Wester Hailes Education Centre in Edinburgh. He is currently an associate with the Scottish Centre for Studies in School Administration at Edinburgh University. He returns in two weeks.

Research shows that students who meet and engage with employers while at school have a much lower chance of becoming a ‘NEET’. Dr Anthony Mann of the Education

and Employers Taskforce discusses the importance of employer engagement

E 8

ARLIER THIS month, ground- breaking new research showed a significant link between young people’s experience of the world of work while at school and the chances of them successfully avoiding becoming NEET (not in education,

employment or training) as young adults. Those who recalled four or more employer contacts while in education are five times less likely to be NEET than those who had no involvement. Since 2004, British schools have been required by

government to provide pupils with opportunities for work-related learning while in education. Through short periods of work experience, careers talks, enterprise competitions and workplace visits, schools, in varying degrees, have enabled young people to come into contact with local employers. A key aim of such activity was to help pupils

succeed in the jobs market after they leave education. For the first time, high quality research has asked if the policy really did make a difference to the employment prospects of young people and the results are striking. The research – It’s Who You Meet: Why employer

contacts at schools make a difference ot the employment prospects of young adults – by the Education and Employers Taskforce, a charity, is based on a survey undertaken pro-bono by YouGov which asked young adults aged 19 to 24 about their current employment or study and to reflect on their experiences of the world of work while they were at school. The results: 26 per cent of young adults who

could recall no contact with employers arranged by their school went on to become NEET. This reduced significantly to four per cent for those who had taken in four or more activities involving employers. Importantly, robust statistical analysis shows that these outcomes are not linked to academic achievement.

The survey finds, moreover, that those young adults in full-time employment who remembered four or more employer contacts while at school earned, on average, 16 per cent more than those who recalled no such activity.

Why employer contacts make a difference

With youth unemployment at such high levels in the UK, and internationally, governments and economists have been working hard to understand why young people should be at such a disadvantage in the competition for jobs. What drives interest is a fear over the social

ramifications of youth unemployment, as contributing to last summer’s riots in England, but also a realisation that experience of employment when young has a long-lasting impact on an individual’s prospects in the labour market. More than that, it has become clear that even those

young people with good qualifications (and young Britons as a whole are now leaving education with higher qualifications and more years of schooling than any previous generation) are struggling to find their footing in the jobs market. More than half of the one million young Britons

who are NEET achieved the equivalent of five GCSEs or more and a quarter are educated to A level or degree standard. Studies by the OECD, finally, have shown that

there is considerable variation in youth unemployment levels between countries. Whereas in the UK, young people are twice as likely to be unemployed as older workers, in some countries the ratio is much higher and in others, such as Germany or Canada, it is nearly half the British level. All this has led to a growing focus on the wider

reasons that can explain who does well and who does badly in the school-to-work transition, and the ability of education systems to make a positive difference above

SecEd • March 1 2012 Making co


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