Dear Head Teacher,

I have a complaint to make about the treatment of my daughter Jane. No, she's not one of the many pupils at your comprehensive school. She's one of your new teachers taking up their first post this autumn.

Let me remind you about her. Going into teaching at the age of 26, she was highly commended on her PGCE course and offered jobs in all her practice schools. She chose yours instead, and came back from her interview elated. Much of the summer holiday was spent in lesson planning, and she went in every day in the week before term started. She expected to find her first year exhausting; what she did not anticipate was the lack of support.

On paper the local education authority's booklet Newly Qualified Teacher Development Programme looks superb; far better than anything I had when starting teaching 35 years ago. But little of it actually happens. Take the weekly meeting with the deputy head after school, supposedly laid on for all nine newly qualified teachers. In the first week they were given some information packs. The second week they learned how to log on to the school computer. After that all meetings were cancelled.

Schools and other large institutions too often make the lazy assumption that new recruits can always ask older hands for advice if and when they need it. But for the beginner, requesting help may seem like an early admission of failure; not the sort of thing a newly qualified teacher will want to own up to. On the few occasions Jane has managed to corner her head of department, the so-called mentor she is advised to turn to in her booklet, it has all been too rushed and inconsequential. That is why scheduled meetings with a senior teacher are important. In an atmosphere of trust, newly qualified teachers can gradually be coaxed into talking about any difficulties. They learn that others may be having problems, too. Cancelling such meetings so regularly is frankly negligent. Ofsted inspectors always look at the arrangements made for newly qualified teachers these days. Will they hear about this failure? Somehow, I doubt it.

The booklet also assured Jane that classroom observation was provided for. Hollow laugh! No one has ever come to see any of her lessons, and it was only by sheer persistence that she eventually got one day off to observe others. It was time well spent; she now knows that some pupils cause everyone difficulties, not just her.

But without such occasional support in the first term young teachers' fragile self-confidence can quickly become eroded. They need reassurance; they also need practical tips from experienced staff and from each other. But as things are, one fellow newly qualified teacher ends up crying most evenings (I should know; she is currently my lodger). Another has already taken a fortnight off school, including one day when she turned back at the school gates and drove home.

My daughter will probably get through; she is tough and comparatively mature. But some of the other newly qualified teachers may not do so well, or only at great personal cost. Premature cynicism is like a cancer in teaching; younger staff at your school soon to move into senior positions say they received the same non-support themselves when they started. Will they, too, hand on this indifference to another generation of starter- teachers one day? It's not as if you run a problem school (I shudder to think what it would be like for your newly qualified teachers faced by really serious classroom confrontations). Your student-teachers are quite well looked after; by what logic do you then neglect their counterparts one year later? And how often is this pattern found in other schools?

Yours, more than a little disenchanted,

Tom Hills.

(Tom Hills is a pseudonym)

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