In this Report, Voice for Teachers examines the Teaching Council’s recent document on Droichead.
Note: the TC document upon which this VFT Report is based was published by the Teaching Council in March 2016, just before the new Teaching Council representatives took office.
1.0 The TC Droichead Framework Displays a Lack of Respect:
1.1 Lack of Respect for Teachers:
The TC wastes no time in insulting teachers and demonstrating its contempt for the professional status of newly qualified teachers by describing induction as “a socialisation process”(p.2). We socialise our pets, we do not socialise our professional colleagues.
1.2 Lack of Respect for the Inspectorate:
The TC then goes on to insult the DES Inspectorate by explaining to us that “the NQTs’ experienced fellow professionals are best placed to support them through the induction phase” (p.2). The DES Inspectorate have been responsible for the probation / induction of NQTs for decades. We now learn that apparently they were not the best people to do that work.
2.0 Unfairness and Inequality for NQTs:
The careful phrases used throughout this document are a worry – words like “normally”; “a number” and “As a general rule” lead us to conclude that the TC plans to continue with its loop-hole ridden modus operandi. Loop-holes for some only that is, others will have to rigorously adhere to rule and jump through every hoop. This signals inherent unfairness in this process from the outset. Indeed, depending on the school setting and how rigorously this document is applied:
- Some NQTs will have “at least two classroom observations” (p.5), while others will have an unstated number of visits.
- During the process “an NQT will have a number of interactions with all members of the PST, called professional conversations” (p.4). The number is not numbered, therefore, one NQT may have many such meetings, others may have few.
- The NQT observes other teachers during the process, “at least two classroom observations carried out by the NQT” (p.5). Again, there is an opportunity for difference / inequality here.
- “Droichead allows for a large measure of flexibility in the creation of Taisce” (p.5). Once again there is scope here for unequal treatment across the country. The TC calls it “flexibility”, we call it loop-holes capable of causing inequality.
- Some NQTs will complete this phase within 60 days, but others “will undertake the Droichead process for the duration of the time that they are in the position recognised for the Droichead process” (p.6).
- All NQTs are required to attend cluster meetings and “one other professional learning activity” (p. 6). The examples given may be freely available in urban settings, but not in rural settings, once again discriminating against some NQTs.
- The Quality Assurance outlined on pages 7 and 8 is far too vague.
3.0 Droichead is Better than the Current System, Or Is It?
The TC is claiming that Droichead is better than the current system, but they would wouldn’t they. We have analysed the TC Droichead document in some depth and we disagree. We find many, many flaws in Droichead.
Teachers are already involved in the Induction of our NQTs, and have been for decades. Droichead offers nothing new, except more paperwork, constant observations of NQTs (instead of two visits now) and much more work for teachers. An ESRI Report looked at Droichead, but failed to ask very pertinent questions, such as “Is Droichead better than the current system of probation?” The question cannot be answered by the ESRI Report, because it was not asked, it was not part of the Research Design utilised by the ESRI. We believe that it should have been one of the most important research questions for the ESRI to include during their planning stage (Research Design). The fact that it was not included is very concerning.
3.1 Unfairness and Inequality for NQTs:
Already discussed above at 2.0
3.2 The Inspectorate:
The dreaded knock on the door from the cigire is referenced by some people as a negative aspect of the current system, but NQTs will still have the possibility of such a visit. The current system of probation consists of the Inspectorate visiting every NQT. Droichead involves the Inspectorate visiting failing NQTs, making it obvious to the community that the NQT is failing.
3.3 Teaching Settings:
The current system does not allow unprobated teachers to teach / complete probation as an LST. We don’t need Droichead to change that silly anomaly, it could be changed in the morning.
Droichead says it allows induction as an LST, but also confusingly tells us: “A primary teacher will normally undertake the Droichead process when employed as a mainstream class teacher” (p.2). (Note: the TC emboldened the word “normally”). The document continues later to state: “Other than in exceptional circumstances, schools should deploy NQTs in a mainstream setting” (p.2). “As part of the Droichead process, the school should also endeavour that there are opportunities for the newly qualified teacher to teach in a mainstream setting” (p.2-3). More loop-holes and double-speak from the TC?
3.4 60 Days instead of 100 Days:
The current system requires two 50 day periods of employment or one 100 day stint. Droichead consists of an unknown number of days. NQTs need to be very, very wary of the 60 day claim. The TC give the impression that probation / induction can be completed in one 60 day period, but that is not the full story. This TC document talks about “phases”, but does not explicitly state how long each phase will actually take.
The “minimum requirements of post-qualification practice” is 60 consecutive school days for primary teachers and 200 hours for post-primary teachers. (Note: the bold and underline is ours). The TC does not tell us what the maximum requirement or the actual requirement might be. The document does state, however, that “Ideally, the NQT will undertake the Droichead process for the duration of the time that they are in the position recognised for the Droichead process” (p.6).
This quote indicates a very open time-frame. Later, the document states: “It should be noted that these are absolute minimum periods of practice and the Council believes that, where the period of an NQT’s practice in a school exceeds those thresholds, it is advisable to defer the making of a recommendation until nearer the end of their time at the school” (p.6).
If the PST decide that the NQT is NOT ready to progress to the next phase of probation / induction, then the time must be extended even further. “It is open to the PST to recommend an additional period of professional practice, so that the NQT may avail of further supports to aid their development (p.6). There is no exact time specified. It might be another 60 days? It might be much longer? The NQT could be involved with Droichead for quite some time. “When the NQT has completed their Droichead process, and the consensus of the PST is that they are ready to move to the next phase on the continuum of teacher education, the PST makes a recommendation to the Teaching Council to that effect” (p.4). Therefore, we can only surmise that we should take that 60 days / 200 hours claim with a pinch of salt.
Currently, NQTs in Primary schools find it very difficult to find 50 consecutive school days in which they can complete half of their probation / induction. Finding 60 consecutive school days minimum, will obviously be even harder for primary teachers to find. Currently, the inspector visits the NQT before the 50 /100 days expire. With Droichead, the process is unlikely to be shorter than the current system. NQTs should be wary about believing any such claim.
3.5 Droichead Pay:
In the current system, the NQT is paid as a fully qualified teacher. Will NQTs completing Droichead be paid as fully qualified teachers? Will NQTs be paid at all? The TC have failed to outlaw JobBridge, so are they planning to use Droichead as a form of JobBridge, to recruit NQTs as Interns? This is all very uncertain. The quote on page 2 allows for obfuscation: “A primary teacher will normally undertake the Droichead process when employed as a mainstream class teacher”. Other TC announcements regarding guaranteed placements for NQTs is very alarming indeed. Guaranteed Placement in other countries usually means that NQTs are allocated to schools immediately after they get their final results. Is it for 60 days? A year? Do the NQTs displace other Temporary Teachers? Are NQTs given preference for maternity leaves etc…? Are NQTs interviewed for this guaranteed placement? Will NQTs displace other teachers? Will NQTs be ex-quota? If the NQT is not satisfactory, does the school still have to accept them on a “guaranteed placement”? Along with a great many other things about Droichead, this needs to be better explained and made explicit. We cannot just guess as to what the TC intends with Droichead. NQTs cannot be lured into Droichead with unproven promises.
(Note: Interestingly, this idea of “guaranteed placement” does not appear in the March 2016 Droichead document. It did feature, however, in the Teaching Council announcement about Droichead, in the NIPT Droichead day for Principals in City West recently and in discussions with INTO on Droichead. Why is it not included in this Droichead document for everyone to read? What else is being hidden?)
4.0 Teachers Have Said No To CEPP and No To Droichead:
4.1 Teachers Judging Colleagues:
INTO members have stated repeatedly that we will not judge colleagues, not newly qualified colleagues and not experienced colleagues. Yet this document states that “fellow professionals” (p.2) will make a recommendation that the NQT is / is not ready to move to the next phase of teacher education. Oh no, we won’t!
4.2 Opt-out for Principals / Not in Reality:
Principals have steadfastly stated that they will never “sign off” / judge an NQT. The Teaching Council have given the impression that Principals can opt out of probation / induction, but it is only an illusion. In reality, there is no opt out for Principals, as the following quotes from their Droichead document prove:
- “The PST is a team of fully qualified teachers in a school, ideally with five years’ experience, including the principal” (p.4)
- “A principal may wish to establish a PST, involving internal school staff and one external PST member” (p.4) presumes that the Principal Teacher is the one who is responsible for establishing the PST
- “an NQT will have a number of interactions with all members of the PST” (p.4)
- The Droichead Quality Assurance (DQA) panel will “discuss the process with the Principal” (p.8)
- “The principal ensures that the Droichead process has been properly conducted” (p.8)
(Note: bold and underline is our emphasis).
4.2.1 Dangers for the Principal:
There are many. For example, if the school deems the NQT fit to progress to the next phase and the Principal agrees that the process has been conducted properly, what happens next? Will the NQT feel they have a right to future employment in the school, because the school deemed them to be satisfactory? On the other hand, if the NQT is deemed as not being ready to proceed to the next phase, what happens next then? Must the school “keep” the NQT in the guaranteed placement, even though he/she isn’t doing very well? What will parents / pupils themselves in the future have to say about that? Who will be blamed? What will the NQT do if the school refuses to give him / her more time? Sue the school using employment legislation?
4.3 No opt-out for Teachers:
We have more than enough to do to teach our pupils (and all that goes with that). We do not have the time or the resources or the training or the pay to do the Inspectorate’s job as well as our own job. However, this document does not give an opt-out for teachers. In fact, it allows Principal Teachers to delegate much work and responsibility to the other teachers in the school.
4.3.1 We are not Inspectors:
We are not inspectors, as described on page 5: “Other professional conversations will follow observations of the NQT’s practice”. This indicates that teachers will be required to observe the NQT teaching and then give feedback to the NQT. That is the work of the Inspectorate. Indeed page 5 has a sub-heading entitled Observation and Feedback. If written feedback is required, that is a huge time commitment. As we know, paperwork has a tendency to grow, not diminish, once it is introduced onto our workload. The TC document does not specify that the feedback must be written, neither does it say that it need not be written. We all know full well that there must be a paper trail to protect ourselves if we embark on judging NQTs via Droichead. Have we been offered additional pay for this additional work? No, we have not.
4.3.2 We are observed very frequently already:
We are observed by many people already, probably more than any other professional. We have taken on student teachers that have an ever-increasing and extended element of observing our practice. The Educational Psychologist; Occupational Therapist etc…etc…etc… all want to come in and observe us in our classrooms. Now, Droichead expects us to allow NQTs to observe us too. We have never been asked to give our permission, it is just expected.
4.3.3 Droichead Judges and Inspects Experienced Teachers:
Teachers will be judged and inspected during the Droichead process as our reward for taking over the role of the Inspectorate:
- If we contact the Chief Inspector for support, we will be judged as to whether or not we tried hard enough before we bothered the Inspectorate, who will check that “genuine efforts have been made to engage in the Droichead process” (p.7)
- Through Droichead Quality Assurance (DQA) visits, we will be judged again. “The DQA panel visits a sample of schools where the Droichead process has taken place” (p.7-8). The DQA will send a “report to the Teaching Council setting out its findings and recommendations” (p. 8).
5.0 Privacy and Confidentiality:
It appears that we are all equal, but some are more equal than others.
Unfairness and inequality is demonstrated again by the TC when they talk about confidentiality. “NQTs should respect the privacy of others” (p.5), yet the NQTs’ right to confidentiality may not necessarily be respected in return. For example, it is very obvious that the NQT is in trouble if the cigire arrives, as described on page 7. Where is the respect for privacy and confidentiality for the NQT in that instance?
5.2 The PST:
The PST Team is also reminded about confidentiality: “PST members should respect the privacy of others and the confidentiality of information garnered during the course of the process” (p6).
5.3 The Teaching Council:
The Droichead Quality Assurance (DQA) Report will be sent to the Teaching Council. The TC will consider it, possibly ratify it and publish it on the internet, then circulate it to the NIPT and the Inspectorate (p.8). The TC have not reminded the DQA; the TC representatives; the NIPT or the Inspectorate about confidentiality.
6.0 Consistency and Quality Assurance:
Some points on this topic have been made elsewhere in this Report. In addition, it must be noted that the Quality Assurance outlined on pages 7 and 8 is extremely vague. Specifics are needed or there is no assurance.
6.1 Review Mechanism for NQTs:
The review mechanism where NQTs can raise concerns is extremely vague. “A review mechanism is in place where NQTs wish to raise concerns about aspects of the Droichead process” (p.8). What aspects are allowed? What is the precise mechanism? It should be absolutely explicit and clear, to protect all parties.
6.2 Circulation of Data:
The TC document does not mention circulating the DQA Report to the NQTs or to the PSTs. This is another example of disrespect and exclusion.
Why does the TC intend to circulate the DQA Report to the Inspectorate? They have been deemed by the TC not to be “best placed to support them (NQTs) through the induction phase” (p.2).
Why will the TC engage with the DES on the implementation of this Droichead policy? Why not engage with teachers? Do teachers only exist to carry out the work and have no say in policy?
All in all, this document is full of expectations for teachers to undertake extra work, without a mention of extra pay, reward or even a thank you. Teachers are expected to absolve the Colleges of Education; the DES; the Inspectorate; the TC; the NIPT of responsibility and work. A much better idea is as follows:
- Teachers have enough work, thank you.
- Colleges of Education must qualify student teachers as being fit to begin teaching or fail them.
- The End.