Our second e-bulletin concentrates on the induction of new support staff and aims to provide schools with a starting point for developing a school-based induction programmepdf-7881023

Induction checklist.pdfpdf-7881023 Induction diagram.pdf

My own school, St Martin’s Catholic School in Leicester, is currently reviewing its induction procedures, as we believe having a robust process in place can reduce the stress of starting a new position. We encourage the philosophy of the ‘whole school approach’ to the induction process.

For some people (at all levels of seniority), changing jobs can be very stressful and they continue to worry even when settled into their new post. A robust induction process helps to alleviate their concerns. This is where I find it ludicrous that induction is a statutory requirement for only some education staff (teachers, newly qualified teachers and out of school care staff – extended services), but there is no requirement for the rest of the school team to undertake such a process. Why is this?

Support staff in a classroom can assist a teacher in transforming a lesson, ultimately leading to a stimulating learning environment. Cover staff and higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs) are expected to cover absent teachers – HLTAs in particular can be expected to plan, prepare, deliver lessons and report on the development, progress and attainment of students. Administrative staff, technicians and the premises team provide essential services for the school; they provide the valuable know-how and resources that support teaching and learning. Induction is just one stage within the continuum of any profession and support staff are just as entitled as those in the teaching profession to be a part of a school’s induction process. I would not expect any of our staff to start a new position and walk into the role without any idea of what is and what is not expected of them.

Purpose
We have five principles which our induction framework is based upon:

  • ensure that all staff feel welcome and at ease in their new environment
  • ensure that all staff new to school understand what is expected of them and are provided with support to achieve those expectations
  • ensure that all staff feel able to contribute to improving and developing the overall effectiveness of our school, raising standards and achievement and meeting the needs of students, parents and the wider community
  • ensure that all staff feel job satisfaction, personal achievement and are able to contribute individual and team effort, thus providing for effective and purposeful work at school
  • ensure that all staff are valued and recognised as the school’s most important asset.

All staff receive an induction handbook in which their evidence of completing their induction can be kept and used as a reference.

Schools should remember that the induction process also includes the probationary period and should your employee not meet the standards of induction that you require, their employment can be terminated. However, bear in mind that the new employee may have employment rights, especially if they have transferred from another authority/school and is deemed to have continuous service, so please check with your HR adviser before following this through. The same rule also applies to the employee; they may terminate their employment in the probationary period, should they feel that the job offered was not what they really wanted.

Planning
Induction begins at the recruitment stage where you first meet your potential employee; it is here you will have the opportunity to provide a real insight into the structure and culture of your school, the standards that will be expected and any future plans. Induction is a vital foundation for continuous learning by supporting the performance and continuous professional development of all staff new to a school.

As previously stated, schools have a statutory requirement to provide teachers, NQTs and out-of-school care staff with an induction, so a decision will have to be made whether you want to revisit this process and amend to include all staff or if you do not have one already, create a separate induction process for support staff.

Schools should also bear in mind that your induction programme should be tailored to each individual new member of staff, following the school’s induction framework and must also be able to accommodate groups of people with differing needs, for example:

  • people with disabilities
  • school leavers
  • work experience
  • long-term unemployed
  • experienced staff transferring from another school/authority
  • people with special needs.

As the length and time of the induction will depend on the background of your new staff, adopting a flow chart (see separate document: Induction diagram) and a checklist (see separate document: Induction checklist) will enable the school to monitor and evaluate progress through the relevant stages, amending the time period as and when necessary (if at all). The process itself need not be formal, but should be structured to ensure that both the manager and employee know what has or has not been covered. Remember, your employee will be absorbing a lot of information and will need time to digest this information and adjust to their new surroundings.

Mentors
Using a mentor helps the new staff member settle into their new role and culture of the school; the mentor acts as a friend, giving guidance, and dispelling anxieties. All our new staff are allocated a mentor and the process is self-developmental for both the mentor and mentee. The mentor, though, will not be from a managerial role. The benefits to your school in adopting a staff mentoring programme could be, for example:

  • development of leadership
  • communication of values, goals and plans
  • fostering of shared values and team work
  • increase in staff satisfaction
  • networking
  • new or different perspectives shared
  • exploration of strengths and potential
  • sharing of expertise
  • understanding of barriers experienced in a school
  • gaining additional recognition and respect.

Mentoring encourages the development of competencies by leading through example or experience rather than by education and training. However, the mentor is not the mentee’s advocate, if the mentee thinks something is going wrong they should be encouraged to report/deal with it. The relationship is based on informal contact between the mentor and the new member of staff and it is advisable to agree for how long the mentoring will proceed; this will depend on circumstances and the experience of the new member of staff.

Confidentiality is important and the mentor must agree with the mentee that they will not disclose to anyone else what they have been discussing. There are occasions, though, when the mentor may have to disclose information that they have been told, such as harassment or health and safety issues. In law if you have heard something that the school could be responsible for or should take action on, it may be considered deliberate if ignored. The mentor should bring concerns to the attention of the mentee and inform them of what they may or may not do. If in any doubt, the mentor should take advice, either confidentially through their union (if they belong to one) or through the school’s whistle blowing policy.

Once the mentoring has finished (only on agreement between the two parties), the mentor and mentee should evaluate what went well, what went wrong and what could be done better. This can only assist the school in developing the mentoring included in the induction programme.

Health and safety
I cannot stress enough the importance of including health and safety training into your induction process. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to provide whatever information, instruction, training and supervision is necessary to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their employees. Having an effective health and safety induction will lead to a reduction in accidents, ill health or even death and prevent prosecution by the HSE for breach of duties contained within the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Schools are also responsible for ensuring that all staff who work within a department that handles food should receive adequate instruction and/or training in food hygiene to enable them to handle food safely, see the TDA website for more on this.

Safeguarding
Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education provides statutory guidance and contains advice on safer recruitment procedures, including induction. At St Martin’s all new staff attend child protection and positive handling training as part of their induction process and is renewed every three years. New staff are also given a copy of our child protection policy.

At the end of a good induction process your new member of staff should be confident with the culture, policies and organisation of the school. She/he should now have the basic knowledge required to do the job and be competent to work unsupervised. Should your new member of staff be uncomfortable with this, please remember to reassure them that support is available and continue the mentoring arrangement if it is considered to be beneficial. If you have the opportunity to assign a member of staff from the same department to look after the new member of staff it can help the employee to gain confidence.

Always evaluate the induction process once it has been completed, learn from your feedback and alter accordingly if necessary.

The induction process/framework is not set in stone and for my support staff I consider the checklist and guide to be a working document and will change to accommodate the individual needs of the new member of staff. I have not gone too in-depth into the subjects of health and safety and safeguarding as I will be discussing these in future articles.

References

This e-bulletin issue was first published in December 2009

About the author: Lindsey Lester is School Business Manager at St Martins Catholic School, Leicester

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