In 2007, aged 37, I returned to England, having been living, studying and working abroad since I was 24. I had spent the entirety of my working life abroad pretty much, and knew I would need to rapidly learn what it means to be English again. The country – and my home city – had changed beyond recognition in the time I had been away. I went through a period of re-orientation alongside my husband and children who had never lived in the country before and didn’t speak English fluently. I wish there had been some kind of induction or orientation for us all.
Induction for school governors
When I became a governor for the first time at a primary school in London, it took me a while to work out what I was meant to be doing, what the school was like, what the aims and vision of the governing body and SLT were. It didn’t have to be like that but it was, because there was no induction of any kind offered by the school or the governing body. I realised that there was no induction for probably these three reasons. The first is simply because the governing body was finding its own way under a headteacher who seem to regard them as a group of potentially interfering parents who needed to be kept at arm’s length. The second, more disturbing, was because there seemed to be a massive assumption that everyone knew what needed to be done, what the expectations were and how to behave in meetings. They were all white, middle class, professional people who had clocked up many hours on committees and in meetings of all sorts. This made me question how anyone who wasn’t au fait with all of the associated jargon and mannerisms of this very British system, was supposed to find a way in to this closed club. And the third reason was that no-one wanted to admit to anyone else that they had no real clue how it all worked in the very specific and very complex world of school governance, what we were all apparently buying into and what we were meant to do.
Such was my dismay that I took myself off to a local authority-run induction session. It was very telling. We were asked to bring along the School Development Plan (ours was a bound tome written in comic sans and that had no input at all whatsoever from the governing body) and a group of about 20 of us spent a day being inducted very thoroughly into the role, responsibilities, aims and ethos of good school governance. It may just have been me who saw this, but the socio-economic and ethnic mix of this group of people seemed very different to that of our governing body. Perhaps we all ended up there for the same reasons.
Suffice to say, I never really recovered from this bumpy start to my 4 years as a governor. This coloured my whole view of the gaping chasm between what good governance might look like and what I had experienced and it made me vow to ensure that new governors to our governing body would not feel the same. It took me years to push it through but eventually, as a parting gift at the end of my term, I did leave a thorough induction plan, clear materials, a buddying system and a vision for induction into the school’s governing body. It’s probably an unused file in someone’s inbox.
Good examples of induction policies for school governors
East Barnet School in London has an induction policy that states clearly that the induction process is seen as an investment, leading to more effective governance and retention of governors. It has a requirement for the following:
- The Chair of Governors will welcome new governors to the governing body
- New governors will have the opportunity to tour the school and meet staff and students
- A mentor will accompany new governors to their first full governing body meeting, as required
The policy also lists the documents that new governors will receive within two weeks of appointment and suggests documents for them to read, such as the school’s latest Ofsted report and the school prospectus.
There is a checklist for new governors to complete. There is space to record the date when each stage of the induction process was carried out, and to confirm receipt of various documents.
St Giles Community School in Warwickshire has an induction policy and induction pack for new governors. It looks at the roles of the headteacher, the governor mentor, and the training link governor.
The document explains that the induction process will be co-ordinated by the Chair of Governors, and that everyone involved must follow the agreed programme. It says:
The governor mentor is available to help and support the new governor, before, during and after his/her first meeting as appropriate.
He/she should have experience as a governor, a good understanding of educational terminology and acronyms and good interpersonal skills.
There is a table listing different stages of the induction process, along with who is responsible for carrying them out and when they will take place
School induction for Year 7s
My oldest daughter started Year 8 this year. When she left her primary school and began secondary school, she was lucky enough to go to a week-long summer-school that the school organised for all Year 7s. It was a great week – not least for us parents as it was free childcare for an entire week. But on many levels it helped this potentially stressful time of new beginnings pass joyfully and without drama. Having Year 7s in school for a week without any other students there gave them space and time to practise the journey in to school, to find their way around the building without fear of being teased for getting lost, and gave them time to bond with each other without having to worry about being quiet and disciplined in lessons yet. They got to know the school rules, the atmosphere, and the expectations which were clearly set out to them and they also got to ask questions and feel confident that they knew more or less what lay before them.
Ernest Bevin College and Sixth Form Centre in Wandsworth has a number of transition strategies to help new Year 7 pupils settle in, including holding a summer school like the one my daughter attended.
The summer school lasts for two weeks and all Year 6 pupils who have accepted a place at the school are invited to attend. In 2014 the activities included:
- A welcome day for pupils to get to know the school and each other
- A team building day at an outdoor adventure centre
- A ‘CSI science day’ for pupils to work in teams to solve a crime
- A celebration event where pupils show parents and guests what they have been involved in during the camp
You can see a timetable of the summer school activities here. Other transition arrangements include only having Year 7 pupils in school on the first day of term, and holding Year 7 and Year 8 ‘buddy afternoons’ in the third week of term to help students get to know pupils in other tutor groups and the year above them.
In June 2013, the department published findings from a National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) survey of 21,000 disadvantaged 11-year-olds’ views on starting secondary school, and whether summer school had changed these. It concluded there was a “small positive effect on transition to secondary schools”, especially for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. NFER research from 2006 looks at transition from primary to secondary school in Wales. It includes four case studies of good practice. Strategies identified in the first case study from a primary school include:
- Designing a bridging project in science for pupils to begin in Year 6 and complete in Year 7
- Meetings between the secondary school’s special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) and the primary school to discuss pupils with SEN, and meet their parents
- Year 5 pupils visiting the secondary school
- Year 6 pupils attending the secondary school for a number of PE lessons, and two induction days (in the autumn and summer terms)
The third case study, from a large secondary school, describes the following actions that the school and local schools took to support transition:
- Headteachers of all schools in the catchment area met on a termly basis
- Members of the school’s English department met with primary school colleagues to plan a bridging project
- Primary school teachers observed secondary school lessons in core subjects
- The head of Year 7 met with Year 6 pupils twice, to deliver information and invite questions from pupils
- Sixth forms pupils were asked to help Year 7 pupils settle in, and the school held a day where only Year 7 and Year 12 students were present
The school in the fourth case study developed a proforma to gather information from primary schools about pupil’s test results, SEN, strengths and weaknesses, conduct/attitude, and attendance record.
It’s so sad therefore that the government decided to scrap the funding for these summer schools especially since we know that they do seem to impact on students’ integration and attainment having attended them. Many schools will now need to charge for these summer schools which will defeat the very important purpose of targeting underprivileged students.
Induction for new staff members
Most of the jobs I have taken on have found me working things out for myself and without a clear induction – mainly because I seem to have taken on new roles within an organisation, in start-up situations, or there has been an element of make-do-and-mend in the workplace I entered. However, I know that as a line manager, I have always ensured that my new staff members are inducted clearly and in a gradual and logical way. It can be overwhelming the amount of information one needs to take on in a new job. And it can be reassuring to know that your line manager and colleagues actually understand the workings of their organisation, the role you are taking on and what is expected of you.
The now dismantled NCTL summed it up well when they say that induction should “be designed to help the new member of staff to contribute quickly and fully to the life and work of the school. This requires processes that will enable them to be integrated socially as well as formally into the school community”. Similarly to students starting a new school, The National College says that induction can help ensure new employees are highly motivated, and that employees who settle quickly will become productive and efficient from early on. Induction should cover:
- A brief overview of the school and its management structure
- Conditions of employment, for example hours of work and holidays
- Procedures relating to sickness notification
- Health and safety arrangements
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has produced a booklet with advice on the recruitment and induction process in all types of organisations. The benefits of an effective induction programme reflect those outlined by the NCTL and are:
- A more settled employee
- A more effective response to training
- Lower turnover
- Improved industrial relations
The booklet also says:
- A good reception on the first day, where the line manager spends time with the new employee, is important
- A written checklist of what should be covered in the programme is useful, so the new starter and the manager know what has and has not been covered, and to give some structure to the programme
- Care should be taken not to overload the new employee with information
- Written materials, such as a handbook, can cover key information and help employees to remember it
- A guide, mentor or buddy can usefully help with everyday questions, introduce other co-workers, and explain the layout of the building
Induction is important
I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that induction is absolutely crucial in any organisation to get newcomers off to the right start. I hope that the examples given here have been useful and that they can give some food for thought on how you work with new people, set the standards and get colleagues and peers feeling clear, focussed, involved and enthused from their first interaction with you.
If you need any help, some constructive criticism or support, you know where to find me!