Struggling? Quit!

If you're a newly qualified teacher and you think you'll fail, jump before you're pushed, says Linda Blackburne
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The Independent Online

Jump now and don't wait to be pushed. That's the expert advice to newly qualified teachers (NQTs) who think they will fail their third term of teaching. "If it's looking dodgy, my advice would be to resign," says Sara Bubb, who runs courses for NQTs.

Jump now and don't wait to be pushed. That's the expert advice to newly qualified teachers (NQTs) who think they will fail their third term of teaching. "If it's looking dodgy, my advice would be to resign," says Sara Bubb, who runs courses for NQTs.

It's tough advice, but advisers often have to be cruel to be kind. If the NQT plods on knowing they will almost certainly fail, they will be deregulated from the General Teaching Council and will never be allowed to teach in a state school again. But if they resign now, they could start their third term of teaching in another school and possibly pass with no trouble.

New teachers should have been warned last term about any serious problems with their teaching.

The education adviser and former senior inspector Bill Laar agrees: "I think this might be quite acceptable advice - get out and cut your losses. Perhaps they should take another job for a while and reflect on what has gone wrong. They should ask themselves whether they want to go on teaching."

It is in everybody's interests for a failing teacher to leave, says Laar. The children and the school benefit, and the NQTs themselves get a second chance.

Barring NQTs from teaching in the state sector if they fail all three terms of their first year became law two years ago, and is part of the Government's policy of getting tough on teachers. Critics believe schools are still suffering from the lax times of previous years when poor teachers were eventually allowed to pass their first year after extending their training.

But, in these more challenging days when some children won't hesitate either to swear at teachers or to assault them, finding an easier school for the third term might well be acceptable. In fact, forced resignations could sometimes be avoided altogether, if the NQT chooses their school wisely from the beginning. They can watch the children's behaviour at break time on the interview day; find out how much support the department is likely to give; and avoid difficult schools with badly behaved children.

However, leaving the profession is far from the intention of NQTs Heather Robinson and Katherine Nation. Robinson, 23, and Nation, 26, are both natural science graduates who teach at Impington Village College, a 1,350-strong comprehensive school and centre for children with physical disabilities in Cambridgeshire.

Neither of them can think of a lesson that has gone badly wrong, although they can think of plenty that were successful. That's a good sign, says their professional tutor Sandra Morton. It shows they are doing well.

Nation, who is teaching children with special needs, believes humour can often lead to success. One of her literacy support groups had a lot of fun designing practical jokes and testing their effectiveness on unsuspecting teachers. Toothpaste "icing" on buns and punctured drink bottles designed to wet your feet combined laughter and learning in one lesson.

Robinson also stresses the enjoyment factor and building good relationships with the children: "I've always loved science. When I was at university, I got involved in a National Science Week project helping five- and six-year-olds make bubbles. It was really challenging to explain it in a way they would understand. Teaching is hard work, but it is very rewarding. You get to make a difference in the children's day." For Morton, badly-behaved children can be put down to ineffective teaching. "NQTs will blame bad behaviour," she says, "but when you unpick that and go into it, the bad behaviour is linked to planning, differentiation, children's needs, and being able to set out expectations while still communicating to the young people. I do not think behaviour is separate to teaching. I think the two are absolutely connected."

Laar says building relationships with children and their parents is the key to successful teaching. In primary schools, get the children to write a diary and send it home once a month to the parents, he advises. He also often says to teachers: "What part of the classroom are you in love with? If you're not in love with it, how are the children going to be in love with it?"

Remember: children make you immortal, he says. They will remember you or your teaching 30 years from now. Primary school children, in particular, have the ultimate respect and awe for their teachers.

"In what other job do you have 25 people who think you are the centre of their life?" asks Laar.