NQT Special Edition: Are you ready for the chalkface?

Written by: Sophie Howells | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

For trainee teachers across the country, September and the start of the NQT year is on the horizon. Sophie Howells seeks some advice from this year’s NQT cohort to help you prepare. She also urges this year’s NQTs to ensure they get some proper rest this summer

Being an NQT is undeniably tough. The Education Support Partnership’s most recent annual helpline report shows that the majority of calls we have received over the past year involve staff who have been working in education for under five years.

For those coming to the end of the NQT year, you may be starting to reflect as you come up for air. Exhausted and elated, you are nearly there. You will have been through an incredible, upward learning curve and no doubt experienced plenty of unexpected highs and lows along the way.

For those looking ahead to starting their NQT year, you might be feeling trepidation and nervousness as well as great anticipation as you prepare to take ownership of your first classroom and make your mark every day.

We asked some NQTs to share their advice and survival tips based on what they have learnt as they look back on this year. So, with thanks to Twinkl’s NQT Facebook Community, what follows are some of the most frequent suggestions for trainee teachers preparing for the autumn and their first year in a classroom.

  1. Get yourself organised before the year starts. Have files and folders ready with all the important documents you are likely to use, ready to add and refer to on a regular basis. A USB stick is a necessity, as you will pick up so much material along the way. You may not use it all but you will know where it is. Everyone has days when they have not planned as much, and so this could be a life-saver.
  2. Plan ahead. It will help you feel much more in control and it will show in your lessons. If difficult behaviour is a known or likely to be a particular issue, spend some time rehearsing likely scenarios and how you might deal with them.
  3. Be kind to yourself. You will make plenty of mistakes and you will learn from them – that is an essential part of the year.
  4. If you are lucky enough to have the support of teaching assistants, worship them! Their value cannot be overestimated. They are worth their weight in gold and can make a huge difference. Spend time building your relationships with them and let them know how much you appreciate their support.
  5. Give verbal feedback in classes to reduce marking and make it more effective. It is something that many very experienced teachers increasingly recommend and plenty of evidence shows that verbal feedback is far more likely to result in improvement. Peer marking can make a great difference in reducing workload too.
  6. Finding the right school that will support you during your NQT year is essential. If you are still looking for a post, do not jump at the first job you are offered if you are unsure. Consider supply teaching if necessary until you find the right job for you.
  7. Spend time at the start of the year getting to know your class and everything else will soon become more manageable.
  8. Be consistent with the hours you work and prioritise. Have a to-do list but accept that once you have got through the day’s priorities, it is important to set a cut-off on anything that is a “nice to have”.
  9. Make time for yourself and your life – easy to say but aim to spend one night a week doing something that makes you feel like yourself. For example, one current NQT told us that she has stuck to a “wellbeing Wednesday”.
  10. Linked to this, if you are finding things tough, make time to talk about it. Share worries with friends, family, colleagues and/or call the Education Support Partnership’s helpline at any time (see further information).
  11. Always ask for help when you need it. Time and again this was one of the main pieces of advice many current NQTs gave – ask, ask and ask again. Your colleagues will expect you to ask plenty of questions so do not hold back if you are unsure or worried about something.

For current NQTs, now too is the time to think ahead to September. What can you do before your hard-won summer break that will make your fully qualified return easier?

The knowledge and experience you have gained this year is invaluable and will be your foundation on which to build as you progress your career. Do your planning now and it will help ensure that you benefit fully from the summer break, especially if you are inclined to worry and ruminate.

Rest and relaxation not only restore wellbeing, they also have the power to build resilience, which you can carry well into the new school year.

So take a little time now to make sure you plan and then vow now to make the most of your summer!

Finally, we would urge anyone feeling overwhelmed, worried, anxious or fearful about anything inside or outside of work to call our helpline, no matter how small you think your problem is, and speak to one of our specialist counsellors. It is free, confidential and available 24/7. 

  • Sophie Howells is from the Education Support Partnership.

Further information & resources

For help or advice on any issue facing those working in education, contact the Education Support Partnership’s free 24-hour helpline on 08000 562 561 or find support and information online at www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk

NQT Special Edition: Free download

This article was featured as part of SecEd’s 10-page NQT Special Edition in our June edition. To download a free pdf of all 10 pages, which offer advice for new teachers across a range of topics including behaviour, classroom practice, wellbeing and more, go to the SecEd Knowledge Bank. The NQT Special Edition was produced with kind support from the National Education Union. Visit www.sec-ed.co.uk/knowledge-bank/nqt-and-trainee-teachers-10-pages-of-tips-advice-and-support


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