NQT Special Edition: What support can you expect to receive?

Written by: Dr Mary Bousted & Kevin Courtney | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

As the summer approaches, trainee teachers' thoughts will be turning to September and their NQT year. Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney offer their advice to new teachers and remind us of the support they should receive

Congratulations! You have entered the exciting, rewarding and sometimes daunting career of teaching. Your passion, skills and experience can inspire a new generation of young people to strive to achieve their dreams.

Some will be so inspired by you that they will become teachers themselves – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Whatever teacher training route you followed, your NQT year is vital in shaping you as a professional. You never stop learning as a teacher and change is ever-present. Given the right support, time and space, your confidence and skills will grow exponentially throughout this year.

By becoming an active part of your teacher union, you can meet many more new teachers and travel through your NQT year together.

Your induction period should help you to feel at home and learn the routines and procedures of your workplace and your profession.

Induction should be a supportive process, helping you to develop your professional confidence and competence.

You will have many questions and concerns as the NQT year passes.

You are entitled to an induction mentor and your school should ensure you have a named mentor with whom you can discuss issues, informally and formally. You may also have a subject mentor and you will have a line manager (probably your head or second in department/faculty).

Your mentor should always be supportive of your development and help you understand how to meet the necessary standards. They should observe your teaching and you should be able to observe them as well as other teachers.

Schools with a supportive culture of peer observation give their staff an invaluable opportunity to develop their practice, so make the most of it. You can develop your own approach and style by looking at how other teachers feedback to and question pupils, use paired and group work, and use pupils’ work in the lesson to move learning forward.

Reflect on these observations as well as your own lessons and ask yourself how these things worked and how they could be developed.

And do not be shy of chatting to experienced teachers in your staffroom – most will be more than willing to share their tips and experience.

As an NQT, you will be observed yourself more than most other teachers. This is normal, but the plan and schedule of observations should be discussed and agreed by you and your mentor. Excessive unannounced observations, even if well-meant, are not helpful.

All teachers are entitled to 10 per cent time off within the timetable for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) but NQTs have the right to an additional 10 per cent time off-timetable. This time is hugely important, so make sure you receive it and that you use it well.

It is vital that you know your statutory duties as a teacher, especially with regard to safeguarding. Your school should ensure you have the relevant policies – always talk to your mentor if you are unsure about something. You should be told who the designated safeguarding lead (DSL) in the school is and how you can report concerns.

Do not worry that you will be wasting time by reporting small concerns – report everything and the DSL will decide how to respond. You will have discussed this in general terms during teacher training but ensure that you understand what the school expects of you. You can contact your union for advice if you are worried about anything.

It is also vital to look after yourself as a teacher, especially in the early days when there is so much to learn and to do. Ensure you make time when you “switch off” from school and develop a work/life balance that you can maintain. Workload is a huge issue in teaching, and surveys show that many NQTs work even longer hours than more experienced teachers.

Teacher unions offer a wealth of advice to help you understand your working time obligations, know your rights, and to adopt practices which reduce the impact of workload. Even as an NQT, you can encourage your colleagues to discuss workload and think about the steps that teachers can take together to reduce workload for everyone. You can read more about teacher workload on the National Education Union (NEU) website (see below).

The Department for Education (DfE) is introducing a new Early Career Framework (ECF), aimed at improving support for new teachers in their first two years of teaching (DfE, 2019). The NEU has welcomed this and we look forward optimistically to a fully funded roll-out over the next few years. If you are an NQT this year, it may not cover you, but you can still make the most of what your school has to offer now.

You are at the start of an exciting adventure. Teaching is rewarding and, although it is challenging at times, you have many sources of support.
The NEU has networks for new teachers, both locally and nationally.

NEU members should contact their school rep or local district secretary to be put in touch with them. Becoming involved in your union allows you to play a part in campaigns to shape government policy on issues like the curriculum, funding, workload and support for pupils, helping to make education the best it can be for young people.

  • Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney are joint general secretaries of the National Education Union.

Further information & resources

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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