Denise Inwood, Former Assistant Head Teacher and Managing Director of BlueSky, creators of BlueSky Education, the leading online performance management, professional learning and self-evaluation solution for schools, shares how schools can ensure excellence in staff induction.
The most valuable asset of a school is its staff and ensuring successful introductions of new colleagues into the organisation is a critical process. Getting induction right ensures staff are confident in their practice, effective in their performance and impact on learners as rapidly and positively as possible.
The importance of effective induction
A clearly structured and well-managed induction process serves two important purposes. It ensures staff are welcomed and supports them in getting to grips with to undertake their their new role in the shortest possible time.
Most schools have a documented staff induction process, but managing and quality assuring this can be challenging. Induction often involves co-ordinating many contributors so a clear programme and method of documenting the process will help establish consistency in the quality of experience and the transition from induction to regular management of staff performance, i.e. appraisal.
Key Features of Effective Induction
- Understanding the organisation or role
It is easy to overwhelm new staff with a mass of information covering general school information, policies, procedures and expectations. Structuring this in a staff handbook can be helpful, but ensuring individuals digest and understand it in the context of their role is more important and is made easier through a staged approach to induction. This involves personalising and introducing information in a priority order depending on the role, or signposted in relation to the core expectations of that role. Reviewing this at key points, for example, in group sessions or review meetings, provides the assurance that critical information has been understood.
- Mentoring and coaching
The role of the induction mentor is a critical one. Appointing a nominated colleague with whom regular contact is possible means that questions and issues can be addressed quickly and without fear of judgement. Having a clear expectation of this role, with necessary training available, ensures consistency and means that concerns can be addressed as soon as they arise.
- Agreeing performance targets and identifying immediate learning needs
With this support and a baseline review in place, you will be able to agree appropriate professional objectives or targets and identify any immediate professional learning needs for new staff. Whether the completion of these objectives is within a defined induction period or over a year, the precise identification of success criteria should be documented to allow rigorous monitoring through an agreed evaluation process.
- Personalising professional learning
A structured induction programme, with regular reviews with the mentor or coach, provides the opportunity to review the impact of initial professional learning and plan further personalised CPD activities to meet the new colleague’s needs. This approach also ensures effective induction into the school’s professional learning programme and philosophy and communicates expectations about measuring the impact of CPD on practice and outcomes.
- Monitoring performance
The monitoring of individual staff performance should follow the school’s usual procedures for performance management with the additional support of the induction mentor or coach. Together, these processes should ensure that any concerns are identified and addressed early on and strengths recognised and maximised. It is important to have a systematic quality assurance process to track the impact of the induction process. This self-evaluation is usually overseen by a senior leader and will involve staff who mentor, coach and line manage new staff, as well as the staff members themselves.
From induction to continuous improvement
Having an induction process which staff feel involved in and empowered by, ensures that they immediately feel part of the organisation and understand its ethos and commitment to them as professionals. Final sign-off of the induction process should be formally acknowledged. If it has been effective, induction will have reinforced the behaviours of continual review and empowered the new member of staff to lead their own improvement alongside, and in collaboration with, their colleagues.