Find a trainee who is serious about their vocation and the rest will fall into place. Five days of training and a few visits by University staff has been important to their development but more vital has been the desire to be a great teacher in the first place. Any gaps that an independent school has in its structure can soon be ironed out with links to local state maintained schools, including in particular working with larger classes. As ever in such situations, it has been I, as a mentor, who has benefited most from the training experience. There being little time, or priority, in my own responsibilities for career development, having to hold up a litmus test on so many areas for others has pointed out where I need to work on blue, purple or red areas with greater detail. The strength of progress lies within the excellent scaffolding so clearly analysed by the Teacher Standards documents and, most importantly, these are referred back to by any other document the Subject Mentor or trainee teacher is expected to use.
School Direct in an independent school is not for the faint hearted, though. I would be reluctant to accept a trainee who was "just seeing if teaching were for them". Trainees undertaking this route must be ready for the knocks that are natural within a "small family business" setup inherent in small schools, being able to take serious responsibilities quickly and at moments when they may feel they have no more to give. In our case, the trainee had already been working in the School for two years in another capacity, so we were certain of her mettle. Do not look at this as a cheap recruiting solution, for it is not. Instead, it gives access to teacher training skills for those who are genuinely interested in teamwork and the future development of trainee and mentor alike.
When many of us started our teaching, we considered it to be a vocation. No amount of training, schemes, or manuals can ever match up with our motivation to become the best within our personal beliefs. As with all vocations, a teaching role must be undertaken (to quote from another vocational service) reverently, responsibly and after much serious thought. The novice phase is the one where we must help the trainee decide whether this is their correct path for life. The remaining freedoms bestowed on an independent school and its natural limitations through its unique business model has much to offer trainee teachers, whether following School Direct or more traditional PGCE models of training.
It is true that the independent model allows greater eccentricity in approaches to student development and this is where the trainee teacher can learn most. Many pedagogical dictacts may be demonstrated in the state sector, but unique independent teacher approaches can be analysed, considered and chewed over by the trainee. When this is backed up by their own excellent research and the ability to take on new ideas, the combination will kick start their career in a most positive way. If the trainee is able to handle data well, they will soon be able to transfer the skills they have learnt into the state sector without losing sight of the uniqueness they have experienced.