NQT Special: A headteacher’s advice for NQTs

Written by: Headteacher diarist | Published:
Photo: iStock

Every week, SecEd’s headteacher diarist writes his reflections and experiences as a new school leader. This week, focusing on CPD and support, he offers his advice to new teachers

I look back at my first year of teaching with fond memories. I remember being excited about finally taking ownership of my own classes having spent my teacher training year feeling like I only had my groups “on loan” from their regular teachers.
I also remember being very keen to impress and make my mark at the school which was in a socially challenging area.

Having grown up in a very working class family I understood the impact that inspirational teachers could have on young people and I was determined that I would be one of those teachers. I was lucky enough to spend the first six years of my teaching career working in a department that was genuinely outstanding.

I was surrounded by role models, excellent teachers who continually pushed each other to become better so that our students received the very best education.

I loved the pace, the challenge and the camaraderie and throughout that first year of teaching I laid some strong foundations which have supported me in my progression throughout my career.

However I know that not everyone is lucky enough to experience such a positive NQT year and since becoming a headteacher I have thought long and hard about how we support new teachers throughout that crucial first year and beyond.

We often see statistics in the press about the number of teachers leaving the profession so soon after qualifying and it is worrying that we appear to have a real recruitment and retention issue in teaching, especially in shortage subjects such as maths, languages and science.

Schools have a real responsibility in addressing this and school leaders must take this very seriously if we are to provide the next generation of teachers with the training and support they need to flourish in their first year and beyond.

NQTs thrive on personalised support so it is important to provide them with a mentor. The opportunity to speak with someone on a one-to-one basis each week or fortnight is incredibly valuable.

Teachers arrive for day one of their NQT year at varying levels of development, so a personalised approach to inducting them is highly recommended.

Some will need a great deal of support and mentoring, others who are further advanced might benefit more from coaching, either way a personalised support model can only work if you know your NQTs really well.

The bread and butter of all teachers is obviously teaching in the classroom, but how often do we become distracted from this and how much time do we dedicate to honing our classroom craft? In those first few crucial years of teaching it is essential to continue to work closely with your NQTs and give them a wide variety of experiences.

The opportunity to watch the best teachers in your school is always welcomed, but merely observing the lesson and stealing ideas is simply not enough.

There needs to be a focus for the observation so that it is meaningful and this should be followed up with a professional discussion so the NQT benefits from exploring the rationale behind the lesson and how it had an impact on student learning.

If it is possible to establish an on-going peer-to-peer observation relationship with more experienced teachers and NQTs then this can be beneficial to both parties as the professional dialogue about student learning can develop a reflective approach to teaching which is very powerful.

The support provided for NQTs should not just come from within the school either. Many local authorities or Teaching School Alliances provide induction packages which can be bought into and if the quality of support is good then it is certainly value for money for several reasons.

The opportunity to network with other NQTs in different schools is valuable and accessing external support mechanisms can keep NQTs refreshed and motivated.

Finally, I offer NQTs the opportunity to take on a project or area of responsibility in terms two and three of an academic year. It is of course, not compulsory and some NQTs do decline the opportunity in order to fully focus on their teaching, but in most cases they are happy to take on a small project.

I have found that this approach helps NQTs to feel valued and gives them the opportunity to prove themselves, which is a good indicator for me when succession-planning in the future.

Regardless of whether you only have one NQT in your school this year – or 10 as I once had – it is critical to provide them with the support they need to make a successful transition into teaching.

Not only is it important for your school and your students, but because of the well-documented retention crisis the whole profession is relying on us.

  • SecEd’s headteacher diarist is in his first year of headship at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.

NQT Special Edition - November 2015

This article was published in November 2015 as part of SecEd's bi-annual NQT Special Edition, supported by the NASUWT. You can download a free PDF of all eight pages via our Supplements page: http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/supplements/


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