Beyond the classroom

Trainee advice
03 August 2017
The reality is that teaching classes is not where your workload begins and ends. There are many additional duties you could take on, from joining the parent-staff association to putting on the Christmas concert or running a club linked to your specialist subject.

However, you are perfectly justified in keeping these additional duties to a minimum while you focus on settling into the profession. Never feel bad about saying no. Express yourself assertively, giving your reasons. You might feel it is appropriate to offer to reconsider in the future, for example when your induction period is complete.

If you do decide to take on an additional duty such as running a school club, only do so on the condition you can review the decision after half a term. This will give you a ‘get-out’ if you feel it is having an adverse effect on your workload.

Teachers should not be asked to do supervision duties at lunchtime, at the end of the morning session or at the beginning of the afternoon session.

If you have any concerns about additional tasks you are asked to do, discuss them with your induction tutor or mentor.

Parents’ evenings

Initially, it is unlikely trainees will be expected to deal directly with parents/guardians but, as the placement develops, you may be asked to have a role in reporting to them, perhaps by attending parents’ evenings.

As trainee teachers you should ask your mentor what you will be expected to do. For example, in some secondary schools children carry ‘contact books’ that are used regularly for communicating between teachers and parents/guardians.

Remember, parents/guardians will view trainees as a member of staff. However, you should not arrange or agree to have a meeting with a parent/guardian without a fully qualified member of staff present.

  • Whatever these are called in your school, parents’ evenings can be daunting even for experienced teachers, let alone if it’s your first one. Yet they are a great opportunity to find out more about your students. The following ideas should help you to get the most out of them:
  • Don’t save up big issues for parents’ evenings; these should be dealt with as appropriate during the term.
  • Have your marking up to date, and attendance records and attainment levels to hand.
  • If you are seeing a parent who is known to be difficult or aggressive, ask a colleague, possibly a member of the senior management team, to witness the consultation.
  • Avoid using educational jargon as far as possible; it could be lost on your audience.
  • Focus on the progress a student has made.
  • Observe experienced colleagues talking to parents if you get the chance.

Writing reports

Government guidance states that teachers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are required to produce at least one report to parents per student per academic year.

When the time comes for a new teacher to report to parents on their student’s progress, these tips will help:

  • Reports should not be excessively long. Follow your school’s guidance on this, but remember that a relevant, concise, helpful and positive paragraph will serve students and parents far better than something longer yet less precise.
  • There is software available designed to speed up the report-writing process but in reality it isn’t always effective. Seek the advice of your induction tutor if you are planning to take this route.
  • Always avoid the clichés, such as ‘could try harder’. Be aware that the comments you write could be interpreted as more of a reflection of your teaching than of a child’s learning.
  • Focus on achievements and improvements. What progress has the child made? Always add something the child could usefully do to improve.
  • Take care over presentation, especially if reports are handwritten in your school. Get someone to read them before submitting them.
  • Jot down a few key words about each child before starting. It will almost certainly be too much to do rough drafts first, but key words will help to ensure you don’t miss anything out.
  • Avoid unnecessary educational jargon

Further help and advice

You can find more help and advice on a range of issues on the ATL and the NUT section websites.

Visit the ATL section website
Visit the NUT section website