Guidelines for Probationary Teachers in Primary Schools

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1 Guidelines for Probationary Teachers in Primary Schools

2 Department of Education and Science, 2005 ISBN: Designed by Q Design/Print Printed by Brunswick Press Ltd. Published by the Stationery Office, Dublin To be purchased directly from: Government Publications Sales Office Sun Alliance House Molesworth Street Dublin 2 Or by mail order from: Government Publications Postal Trade Section 51 St. Stephen s Green Dublin 2 Phone (01) Fax (01)

3 FOREWORD It is widely recognised that the quality of children s learning is underpinned by the calibre of teachers in schools. In Ireland, teaching has traditionally enjoyed an important social standing, and I am glad to say that the profession continues to attract high-calibre and talented people to its ranks. High standards in initial teacher education are essential to ensuring that teachers get off to the best possible start in their professional careers. Equally, it is necessary to make sure that teachers, particularly those beginning in the profession, are supported and encouraged to reach their full potential as practitioners. I warmly welcome the publication of these guidelines for newly qualified teachers who are about to take up their first appointment in a primary school. The guidelines provide general information on planning and preparation, classroom management, teaching, learning, and assessment, and they also outline the role of the Inspectorate in the probationary process. The significant economic and social changes that have occurred in Ireland in the past decade make high-quality education more important than ever before. Teachers need to be aware of ongoing changes in society, curriculum, and educational thinking, and they need to make professional decisions in response to these developments. These guidelines offer advice on where probationary teachers may seek support. I hope that they will assist in smoothing the transition from the college of education to the classroom. Children are at the heart of our educational system. It is appropriate to keep to the fore the need to nurture the child in the spiritual, moral, cognitive, cultural, emotional, imaginative, aesthetic, social and physical dimensions of life. Teaching is a demanding and exciting profession, and teachers have a profound impact on the lives of children and through them exercise a significant influence on the shape of society. To become a teacher is to become a member of a respected educational community. During the initial years, particular attention is focused on assisting newly qualified teachers in developing their classroom skills and increasing their understanding of the complexities of teaching and learning. These guidelines aim to help probationary teachers progress to full participation as a developing professional in the life of the primary school and in the teaching profession generally. Mary Hanafin, T.D. Minister for Education & Science

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5 1 INTRODUCTION When first appointed to a primary school a newly qualified teacher is placed on probation, and on successful completion of this process is awarded the diploma in teaching by the Department of Education and Science. During this probationary period in particular, a number of people will be able to offer you practical help and advice on many issues. However, it is also important to recognise the vital role that you will play in making a success of this process. SOURCES OF SUPPORT FOR A PROBATIONARY TEACHER The school principal The principal of the school is an important source of support and guidance. The principal is responsible for the day-to-day management of the school and takes charge of leading and motivating the school team, encouraging their efforts and fostering an effective process of consultation and communication within the school community. Circular 16/73 of the Department of Education and Science states that the principal "should give encouragement, advice or arrange for teaching demonstrations, particularly in the case of... teachers on probation." Your principal will welcome opportunities to talk to you about your class and about the progress that you are making from time to time. 1 Other teachers Other teachers will be glad to discuss issues with you and to help you. If you are taking over a class from another teacher in the school, that teacher will be able to provide a great deal of useful information about your new class. Your school may identify a particular teacher to whom you may turn for advice. This colleague will be able to discuss approaches and methods with you and brief you on the organisational systems and arrangements in the school. A general rule of thumb should be, "If in doubt, ask." Other probationary teachers will also be able to share their experiences with you. Keeping up contacts with college friends will be important in this regard. This year you may be the only probationary teacher in your school, but there may be other staff members who completed their probation recently who will be a valuable source of advice and support.

6 Teacher induction courses Induction courses are offered in some education centres and colleges of education, or you may have access to a pilot teacher induction programme. These courses provide a good forum, both for the exchange of experiences with other probationary teachers and for further professional development. The school plan Each school will have a school plan. The school plan will be very helpful to you in getting to know about the life and work of the school and will be a valuable source of information. The plan will generally have two main sections: one dealing with curricular areas and the second with a range of policies and practices in respect of administrative and organisational aspects of school life. Generally, teachers will be guided by the school plan in relation to their work. You should always discuss with your principal any ideas you may have in relation to the plan. 2 Parents Good working relationships between teachers, schools and parents are very important in ensuring a happy and successful educational experience for pupils. As the first educators of their children, parents have rights and responsibilities regarding their children s education. As a teacher, you play an important role in helping parents to understand how their children are progressing in the different areas of the curriculum and how they can help them to learn at home. It is particularly important for parents of children with special needs to be involved in their children s learning and to be empowered to help them. Parents will be an important source of information about their children, and the information they provide may help you to structure programmes of learning that will best suit their children s needs. Parents should be made welcome to approach you with any questions or concerns that they may have about their child s progress. As part of the school plan, your school will have a policy on meetings with parents and how partnership with parents is best cultivated. You should, as a matter of course, keep the principal informed of all contacts with parents. School records Schools use a variety of methods to record pupils progress. Many schools keep copies of reports sent to parents each year and retain files on such aspects as pupils attainment and achievements. You should note carefully the contents of reports or records on your class. You should also discuss the pupils with their previous teacher, if this is possible, and with the principal.

7 Other sources of information A number of agencies and organisations offer advice on a range of areas related to education. Some of these will be helpful to you in developing your skills as a teacher; others will offer more general professional support. The list of web sites below is not meant to be exhaustive. If you know of other sources, share them with your colleagues. Department of Education and Science Primary Curriculum Support Programme National Council for Curriculum and Assessment Irish National Teachers Organisation School Development Planning Service Irish Learning Support Association Special Education Support Service

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9 2 THE ROLE OF THE INSPECTORATE IN THE PROBATIONARY PROCESS Everyone who works in schools or in the wider educational system has a role to play in improving the educational experience and learning outcomes for children. We have to think about what we do and ask ourselves, "Can we do this better?" or "Can we help children to learn in a better way?" School communities teachers, principals, those involved in management, and parents examine these questions frequently as they strive to review the work of their schools and improve the education they offer to pupils. This internal self-evaluation is complemented by external evaluation by the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Science, particularly through the Whole-School Evaluation (WSE) process. The functions of the Inspectorate are outlined in section 13 of the Education Act (1998) and are underpinned by the Professional Code of Practice on Evaluation and Reporting for the Inspectorate. There will be a copy of this code in your school, and it is also available on the Department s web site. Put simply, the work of the Inspectorate is concerned with evaluating, supporting and advising schools and teachers on matters relating to the provision of education for children. 5 Following appointment to a teaching position, teachers are required to serve a probationary year. The probationary process is designed to ensure that you have a period in which you can develop your teaching skills and can satisfy an inspector of the Department of Education and Science that you are able to teach competently. While on probation you will be visited on a number of occasions by a member of the Inspectorate. He or she will monitor and evaluate your work and offer advice on aspects for development. Of course, your development as a professional, which began during initial teacher education, will continue through your probationary period and go on throughout your teaching career. As a professional, you will be refining and extending your teaching skills constantly in the years ahead. When you take up a teaching position in a school you are asked to ensure that the inspector is informed of the fact that you are there. You should access the appropriate form on the Department s web site; your principal will assist you with the process.

10 What to expect when an inspector visits your classroom During a typical visit, the inspector will observe you teaching, examine your preparation and progress records, and evaluate samples of the pupils work. He or she may also interact with the pupils and question them on particular elements of the programme covered. The inspector will wish to see normal, day-to-day work taking place and will evaluate the quality of teaching and learning accordingly. At the end of the visit the inspector will discuss aspects of your work and offer advice and recommendations for development. The length of the visit may vary according to its purpose. Inspectors reports In the case of continuous service, the inspector will normally complete a beagthuairisc on your work during the first half of the probationary year. This will provide detail under the following headings: ô planning, preparation and recording of progress ô classroom management and organisation ô quality of teaching throughout the curriculum ô quality of pupils learning. 6 The beagthuairisc identifies the areas of strength and areas for development in broad categories of your work and outlines the advice given by the inspector. Normally, during the second half of the probationary year the inspector will make arrangements for carrying out a general inspection (mórfhiosrú) of your work. This usually occurs over the course of a full school day, and you will receive notice in advance of the inspector s visit. Following this inspection the inspector furnishes to the Department of Education and Science a general report (mórthuairisc) on your work. This report provides evaluative commentary under the headings: ô planning, preparation and recording of progress ô classroom management and organisation ô overall teaching and learning ô curriculum implementation. Additionally, the general report identifies strengths and aspects for further development and provides an overall rating of "satisfactory" or "not satisfactory." After the report has been processed, the department will send a copy to you and also to your school.

11 Successful completion of the probationary process The probationary process has two aspects: service and professional. The date on which your probationary period ends is normally one year from the date on which you took up your first teaching post. The date of your general inspection is not the date on which you complete probation. Benefits of probation Once you have successfully completed the probationary process, you ô are eligible to apply for career breaks, ô may be appointed as a learning-support/resource teacher under the General Allocation Scheme, resource teacher for Travellers, teacher in Early Start units, or home-school-community liaison teacher, ô are entitled to appropriate panel rights, ô are eligible for job sharing, and ô qualify for the Teacher Exchange Scheme. 7

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13 3 CREATING A PURPOSEFUL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT The provision of a bright, attractive and purposeful learning environment is a very important factor in supporting the pupils learning. This aspect of your work will be evaluated by the inspector. You may have little or no control over the physical structure or the furniture of the classroom in which you are teaching; however, you should make every effort to create a stimulating learning environment by using the available space and furniture to best effect. Suitable learning resources can brighten up a room as well as provide opportunities for oral language development. In infant classes, displaying books, especially large-format books from the library, can add further interest. Other members of the staff and the school principal might share imaginative ideas with you in this regard if you ask their advice. Pupils seating You should consider carefully how you arrange pupils tables and chairs within the classroom. The space available and the furniture should be used to create an attractive and practical layout in which the pupils can work comfortably and interact purposefully with each other. The requirements of pupils with special educational needs in particular should be carefully considered when you are setting out your classroom. Experienced teachers may change the seating arrangements within the classroom regularly. This gives all pupils an opportunity to mix with others in the classroom and not just with their close friends. 9 Activity areas Depending on the classroom and on the class that you are teaching, you should also consider the learning and activity areas that you will need. For example, in an infant classroom you may want to create distinct areas for exploration and play, including a "home corner," a reading corner, a wet area, and a sand tray. With older children you may also wish to provide a wet area, a library corner, centres of interest, or investigation tables. Classroom displays As you teach, you will frequently use resources, displays and other illustrative material. Ensure that these are displayed clearly, and check the visibility of written material by

14 walking around the room. Some posters may remain on display for quite some time, as they will be referred to constantly, but others should be taken down when they are no longer relevant. Laminating posters, charts and pictures, which is a facility available in some schools or your local education centre, is a useful way of ensuring that resources remain fit for use and will save you work in the long run. You should also ensure that children s work in various areas of the curriculum such as visual art work, project work, writing, or experiments is celebrated and displayed. Taking the time to attractively display this work shows the significance you attach to pupils work and fosters a sense of pride and achievement among the pupils. It is a good rule of thumb that each child should have at least one item of work displayed at all times. You should think too of the display areas that are available outside your classroom. Corridors and other spaces can be made more attractive and inviting when children s work is displayed. Children love to see their own work displayed and like to "look and respond" to the work of other pupils. Parents too like to see their children s work on display; it gives them information about the type of work being done in the class and how they might consolidate it at home. 10 A print-rich environment The Primary School Curriculum (1999) emphasises the role that a print-rich environment can play in stimulating children s interest in reading and in the acquisition of reading skills. Posters, labels, direction signs and notices will all contribute to this process. Further useful advice on creating a print-rich environment can be found in the Teacher Guidelines for English and Irish in the Primary School Curriculum. Classroom resources You will use a wide range of resources when teaching. Some of the equipment will be commercially designed educational materials, but you will also use everyday objects and materials. Most schools have ICT equipment and suitable software that will be useful in your teaching. You should plan to make full use of these resources to help provide a varied and interesting programme for children and to accommodate their different learning styles. Using even the simplest equipment or illustrative material can help children in acquiring and developing concepts in a wide range of curricular areas. Teaching resources may be stored in classrooms other than your own, or in a central place in the school. Be sure to find out early in the school year what resources are available and the arrangements that exist for their use. Language awareness Language is the principal means of human communication and is a core part of daily activity in schools. In primary schools, children learn two languages, Irish and English.

15 As a teacher you will be aware that it is generally through language that children s awareness of Irish culture and heritage, and their sense of Irish identity, are developed. In schools where English is the medium of instruction it is important also that children see Irish as a natural means of communication in the daily life of the class and the school. Fostering the child s enthusiasm for and enjoyment in using Irish is a central goal of the curriculum, and you play a crucial role in creating a classroom atmosphere that facilitates this goal. Using resources in the locality Teaching colleagues in your school will be able to tell you about features in the locality that may be explored in social, environmental and scientific education (SESE), or the school plan may contain a list of such features. Further advice is given in the Teacher Guidelines for geography, history and science in the Primary School Curriculum. If you plan to take children off the premises, find out from a colleague or from the principal what supervision and safety procedures apply. Multi-grade classes Most children in Ireland are taught in multi-grade classes. If you find that you are teaching in such a class in your first year out of college, all you learnt about differentiated learning and group-teaching methods will take on a new relevance. Effective classroom management strategies will also be important. In addition, advice on the approach to preparation, classroom management and curriculum implementation in a multi-grade setting will be available either from the principal or through other teaching colleagues. 11 Classroom management The quality of the atmosphere, the nature and characteristics of the relationships and the sense of respect that are established in your classroom are core elements of good teaching. You will continue to develop and sharpen the sophisticated skills of teaching as you progress through your career. Taking time to reflect on your own practice, participating in professional development courses and engaging in productive discussion with colleagues will improve your expertise. Don t be impatient: the skills of good classroom management take time to develop. Children with special needs Many teachers in primary schools will have children with special educational needs in their class. It is important that you consult the learning-support/resource teacher, the resource teacher for children with special needs, your principal, the previous class teacher and the parents before making decisions about the programme of learning for these children.

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17 4 PLANNING AND PREPARATION An important element in ensuring the success of your work as a teacher is written planning and preparation. This preparation is necessary in order to clarify the learning outcomes you want to achieve and how you intend to achieve them. Just as there is no single way to teach a lesson, there is no one way to plan. Effective planning will help you to set out a clear and coherent programme of teaching and learning activities over a defined period, such as a week, a term, or the school year. While rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools sets out the requirement of each teacher with regard to preparation and planning, what follows is presented as a guide to good practice for teachers on probation. (See appendix A for the full text of rule 126) Elements in written preparation There are two main elements in your written preparation: a long-term plan of work and a short-term plan of work. 13 Long-term plan It is important that your long-term plan relates closely to the school plan and shows how it will be customised to meet the needs of pupils in your class. Your long-term plan should help you to ensure that a broad and balanced curriculum is taught and that continuity and progression are promoted throughout each term of the school year. It should provide an overall summary of the central aims to be achieved in each subject area, based on the curriculum and your judgement of the needs of the children in your class. It is not necessary to transcribe directly from curriculum documents; rather you should ensure that the aims are presented in a way that is meaningful and relevant to your pupils learning and to the setting in which you are teaching. In your long-term plan you should briefly note the opportunities for integration with other curricular areas and linkage within subjects. In consultation with support teachers in your school, your long-term plan should map out the priority aims of learning programmes for children in your class who have special educational needs. Remember that the length of your long-term plan is not necessarily an indication of its quality. What is important is that you have clarity about what you want to achieve, that you have knowledge of the curriculum objectives for the class you are teaching, and that all

18 your planning documents provide continuous support for your teaching and are meaningful, useful, and applicable to your own class situation. In summary, for each subject area the long-term plan should contain ô general or overall aims, ô an outline of the content, ô an overview of the teaching strategies and methods to be used, ô an outline of the principal resources to be provided to support teaching and learning, ô notes on opportunities that will be taken to foster linkage and integration, ô an outline of how the programme will be differentiated for the pupils in general and particularly for children with special educational needs, and ô an outline of suitable assessment strategies to be employed. 14 There are many different ways in which you can record your long-term planning. Some teachers prefer to present their long-term plan in a grid format, while others prefer continuous text. The format may also vary according to the subject of the plan. While it is always necessary to present your work in a clear, legible manner, the way in which your plan is recorded is less important than the clarity of the thinking that leads to the written plan. Samples of plans can be seen on the web site of the Primary Curriculum Support Programme at Advice on planning can also be obtained on the School Development Planning Service web site at Most experienced teachers prepare a long-term plan for a complete school year. However, as a newly qualified teacher you may find it difficult to judge accurately the amount of time needed for each aspect of the curriculum. Therefore, it is best to set out a plan for each term, or for the period September-December and then for the period January-June. Short-term planning Short-term planning assists you in clarifying the work to be completed in a defined period. As a probationary teacher you are required to prepare short-term plans for each week. The plan should identify the essential learning experiences to be provided and the expected learning outcomes for the children. It should show the teaching strategies and methods you will use in this period. Your plan should also provide a means of assessing whether the expected learning outcomes have been achieved and so provide the basis for self-assessment of the appropriateness of the methods you decided to use.

19 For each subject area the short-term plan should contain ô the date and class level, ô the learning objectives to be achieved, ô the teaching methods to be employed, ô the learning activities in which the pupils will engage, ô the resources to be used, ô a note on the forms of assessment that will be used, and ô a note, where relevant, on how you plan to include children who have special educational needs to enable them to participate in the lesson to the maximum of their ability. A column may also be incorporated in the short-term scheme that would allow you to record observations as work is completed. This will assist you in compiling the monthly progress record. As with long-term planning, the manner in which you record short-term planning may vary. Examples of planning grids for individual subjects can be found on the web site of the Primary Curriculum Support Programme at Monthly progress record (cuntas míosúil) In addition, at the end of every month each teacher is required to provide a written summary of the work covered in the various subjects. In many schools there is an agreed format for this; you should discuss this matter with your school principal. The cuntas míosúil is an important school record, and a copy is kept in the school by the principal. This should be available at all times and should be kept for at least one complete school year after the year to which it relates. 15 Timetable Taking into account the recommendations on the amount of time to be devoted to the various subject areas to be found in the introduction to the Primary School Curriculum (p. 70), you should prepare a timetable for your class. You will also need to consider the availability of certain school resources, such as the general-purpose hall, playground, or school field. The school plan will be helpful in this regard, as it may contain policies and procedures in relation to classes or pupils that have priority use of some resources. It is perhaps best not to complete your timetable until you are reasonably certain of the availability of these resources. Collaboration with the learning-support/resource teacher or the resource teacher for children with special needs regarding provision for pupils with learning difficulties or special needs is also advised. In addition, you should discuss the discretionary time element of the curriculum with your principal, as guidelines on this

20 may be provided for under the school plan. Finally, your timetable will assist you in ensuring that a balanced, integrated curriculum is provided to your pupils. Time management and planning Planning and preparation for your teaching will take some time, especially when you start in the profession. From college you will be aware of the benefits of using information and communications technology (ICT) to facilitate aspects of planning. You should continue to use ICT, and particularly resources that may be available to you in your own school, to further enhance your planning and preparation. However, if you feel that you are spending an inordinate amount of time on this task you should discuss it with the principal, or raise the matter with an experienced teaching colleague. It is important that the focus be kept on the relevance of plans for your work in the classroom and that an undue amount of time is not spent on the production of documents that have little bearing on teaching or learning. 16

21 5 EFFECTIVE LEARNING AND TEACHING APPROACHES You will have learnt about and practised a range of teaching approaches during your initial teacher education course. This section of the guidelines does not examine teaching methods or pupils learning styles in detail. Advice on the methods and approaches best suited to each area of the curriculum are discussed in detail in the Teacher Guidelines that are part of the Primary School Curriculum. The notes below are intended to provide some general guidance that may help you as you begin teaching. Effective teaching You will be most effective as a teacher when you ô promote a positive classroom atmosphere and a good working relationship with your pupils, ô promote motivation, interest, and good behaviour, ô set high expectations in order to challenge pupils, ô are clear about the learning objectives and how these will be achieved, ô use a range of teaching strategies, bearing in mind the learning styles and needs of your pupils, ô are careful not to rely too heavily on one method, ô provide for individual differences, ô engage pupils in classroom learning, ô use good questioning techniques that stimulate critical thinking and personal opinion, ô incorporate pupils contributions during your lessons, and build on their experiences, ô relate learning to the environment of the pupils, ô use cross-curricular approaches to maximise the learning potential in topics, ô use resources efficiently and effectively, ô pace lessons carefully, ô promote independent learning and collaborative work among pupils, ô monitor learning tasks carefully, ô revise work regularly to consolidate pupils learning, and ô use information that results from assessment activities to further refine your planning, teaching strategies and methods. 17

22 Pupils learning Pupils learning is most effective when ô their interest and motivation are stimulated and maintained, ô their learning is related to their own experience and environment, ô they are active in the learning process and have some control over their own learning, ô they obtain regular, positive reinforcement and a sense of success, ô they feel that their work is valued and respected, and ô they feel challenged by the learning activities. 18

23 6 ASSESSMENT AND RECORD-KEEPING Assessment is an essential part of the teaching and learning process. As children learn you will be constantly gathering information about the success of the learning experiences that you have provided and the ability of the pupils to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes you hope to foster. Summative assessment of learning is vital, but the continuous assessment for learning that you will undertake is extremely important also. Assessment information will be gathered in a number of ways, which may include: ô a continuous, relatively informal record of your own observations of the children s learning and work, ô observational check-lists, ô teacher-designed tasks and tests, ô work samples, portfolios and projects completed by the pupils as part of the learning process, ô records of periodically administered standardised tests, largely used to assess pupils progress in reading and mathematics, and ô diagnostic tests, usually used to identify learning difficulties that a child may have (often used by learning-support/resource teacher and resource teachers for children with special needs). 19 The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is conducting a review of assessment and record-keeping in schools. The outcome of this review will be beneficial to you. In addition, your school should have an agreed policy on record-keeping and on approaches to assessment as part of the school plan. You should be aware that data you collect on children s learning, where it becomes part of a formal record, may be examined by parents under the Data Protection Act, and they have a right to have any inaccuracies corrected.

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25 7 CONCLUSION A significant event in the professional development of teaching in Ireland has been the establishment of the Teaching Council. When it is fully operational the council will be an independent, self-regulating professional body that will exercise the powers and perform the functions through which the promotion and development of the teaching profession may be advanced. It will provide an important and influential forum for presenting the views of the profession on all aspects of the teaching career, from initial recruitment to in-career professional development. The teacher s individual status and identity will be enhanced by being part of a recognised, collective professional body with statutory authority. The role and functions of a teacher in a primary school are multifaceted and demanding. The Primary School Curriculum states that a teacher should ensure that the complexity of children s learning needs is served by a learning process that is rich and varied. This involves the teacher in classroom planning and in the wider process of school planning and making judgements and decisions about the content, the way different elements of content are combined, and the sequence in which these are introduced. These Guidelines for Probationary Teachers in Primary Schools offer assistance as you take your first steps as a teacher to meet some of the demands of that complex role. 21 Good teachers need to be good learners too, committed to lifelong learning. As with most professions, the philosophy, theory and practice of teaching and learning are continuously evolving. Our understanding of the ways children learn, the methods and approaches to teaching, curriculum content and educational resources are developing all the time. It is important that you, as a newly qualified teacher, embark on your career with a sense of adventure, open-mindedness, and a commitment to developing your professional practice and expertise. Of course there will be challenges, but it is important to recognise that you have joined a profession that has a proud tradition and that is committed to the educational well-being of every child in this country.

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27 APPENDIX A: RULE 126 (REVISED TEXT) Each teacher is required to make adequate written preparation for his/her school work, as follows: ô to prepare at the beginning of each school year or school term a long term programme of work in each subject, in accordance with the Primary School Curriculum, the school plan and the learning needs of his/her pupils; the long term programme of work to include a class timetable, outlining the weekly allotment of time for each subject, ô to prepare fortnightly or, in the case of probationary teachers, weekly in advance a short term plan of work. In the case of class teachers, at the close of every month, the portion of the curriculum dealt with during the month should be noted in a progress record, the format of which will be agreed at school level. The progress record is an important school record, the custody of which is one of the duties of the principal teacher. It should be available in the school at all times during the school year to which it relates and for at least one complete school year after the end of that year. Teachers other than class teachers are required: 23 ô to plan appropriate learning programmes in respect of their pupils, and ô to maintain group or individual pupil progress records, as appropriate.

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