NQT Special Edition: Moving from trainee teacher to NQT

Written by: Victoria Tully | Published:
Image: iStock

School leader Victoria Tully offers some insights into the kind of NQT support that trainee teachers should expect from their schools from September

I am currently a deputy head in an inner city comprehensive with a fully inclusive intake. I’m responsible for (among other things) all of our PGCE students, NQTs and second and third year teachers.

It’s not all on you!

The good news is that you are not expected to know everything and to be perfect as an NQT. We know that you are still learning and it is our job in the senior leadership team to support you and to help you. I am also responsible for second and third year teachers. That’s because we know they are still learning too. In fact, we like to create a culture which acknowledges that we are all learning and however “long in the tooth” you can still make incremental improvements.

Your school should provide a comprehensive training programme for you on top of the whole-school CPD plan and this training should be targeted at beginning teachers. The CPD should be regular (ours is weekly) and should provide a balance between pedagogical improvement, practical admin-type things that will help you in your practice, and professional habits.

Improving classroom practice is obvious and should also be balanced by regular observations from a variety of your colleagues. Your in-school mentor should be seeing you every couple of weeks and most importantly should be providing high-quality feedback to allow you to improve step-by-step.

This feedback should focus on one or two (maximum) points to focus and work on and these should be observed the next time they come in. If, for some reason you are not getting the support you need, talk to your mentor first and ask for more. If this doesn’t work, speak to the senior leader who oversees all the NQTs. Failing this, you should contact the NQT representative at your local authority (they are fabulously bossy with schools who don’t do as they are told).

Don’t try everything all at once

One mistake many NQTs make (I did!) is to try and take on everything at once. If you take only one thing from this article, let it be this: you cannot do everything at once! So, if you are focusing on planning effective do now/starter activities to ensure a focused introduction to every lesson, focus on this, experiment and try new ideas, speak to other colleagues and see what works. Your mentor should keep working with you on this until it improves and then you can move confidently onto something else.

Remove stress by learning the boring bits

The admin-focused sessions aren’t the most exciting but they do help a lot. They remove unnecessary stress. For example, if you need to upload homework to the school’s software programme having the time and space to be shown how to use it properly means you aren’t spending your own time in a silo working things out for yourself. We got caught out this year by not having a short session on data entry on SIMS. Not wildly exciting, but then several NQTs entered the data in the wrong place which later caused unnecessary stress and headaches all round. Completely our fault, though.

Be aware of your conduct

The professional conduct sessions have sadly become necessary because we have found that some NQTs, fresh out of university still carry with them the student lifestyle. If you work in some other jobs, you have time to grow into it and may even be treated with less respect as a rookie. This doesn’t work in education. I am not saying that you can’t have friends, that you can’t let off steam, that you can’t feel stressed when everything is going wrong, but there are ways of doing it.

If things are getting too much for you, speak to your line manager in a proper meeting and let them help you out. Most importantly, help yourself out. Be on time every day. Give yourself enough time to do the printing you need well before your lesson so there is no last-minute panicked running around. Acknowledge that everyone has their own issues going on and that you may not be seeing the whole picture.

Follow the dress code. I am saying this because irritating things like this get in the way of the senior leadership team seeing your fabulous teaching and your developing relationships. It also means that in a year or two when you are confident in your teaching and you feel ready to move up the career ladder (I know -– it feels impossible, but it will come!) you will not need to change the perception that you are immature at best and unprofessional at worst.

In my first year of teaching I was mentored by an incredible woman who was efficiency personified. She had a laser-like focus on what I needed to work on, one step at a time and she was fierce! I remember her having some pretty harsh words with me when I got behind on my marking (you will, too!) and she pointed out that it wasn’t going to go anywhere so I might as well get on with it!

I sometimes felt stung by her words, but later on, when I had licked my wounds for a while, I could see that she was right and, since I worked with her, I too have become a real advocate of telling the truth to NQTs, and to all colleagues. Honesty is essential if you are going to improve.

Focus on what’s important

Do yourself a favour and make your NQT year all about teaching and learning – yours and the students. The students will thank you, your mentor will support you and you will develop amazing relationships with awesome colleagues who will always go the extra mile to help you out.

Your NQT year is a partnership between you and the school where you should be supported and challenged to develop in all areas of your practice and where you should build habits of openness and reflexivity that will help you flourish throughout your career. Good luck – it works out fine in the end!

  • Victoria Tully is the deputy headteacher at Fulham Cross Girls’ School and Language College in London. She is also a participant on Ambition School Leadership’s Future Leaders programme. Visit www.ambitionschoolleadership.org.uk

NQT Special Edition

This article was published as part of SecEd’s NQT Special Edition. The publication offered eight pages of specialist best practice advice for NQTs and trainee teachers across the UK. Supported by the NASUWT the special edition published on June 29, 2017, and the eight pages are available to download as a free pdf from SecEd’s Supplements page: www.sec-ed.co.uk/supplements


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