Diary of an NQT: Embracing the extra-curricular

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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External competitions and challenges can be a great way to engage students and promote your subject, as our NQT diarist hopes to find out

This week I have invested most of my energy in catching up with day-to-day errands. My days feel much calmer at the moment and as a result I have managed to blast through most of my planning and marking.

With this in mind, and with a few spare moments, I decided to have a look through my targets for my NQT year in order to see where I am up to with the various goals that I (rather optimistically) set myself last year. I’ve already mentioned a few of these in previous diary entries for SecEd.

One goal in particular is on my mind at the moment: supporting the wider work of my department. So, where am I up to? Well, I am focusing on contributing a bit more to the department by organising some extra-curricular activities. Last week, I spent a few days researching activities and local competitions that were suitable for both key stage 3 and 4.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many opportunities are out there. They are mainly writing competitions (as per the link to English), but I also came across some brilliant cross-curricular competitions that merged history, drama and a few other subjects.

Our department is generally very good with promoting extra-curricular goings-on, but I have often thought that more students could be involved in these activities. My aim is to establish a foundation for this and create a much bigger buzz.

I’m extremely eager for students to engage with our subject outside of the classroom. I know that our department has worked hard recently to revamp the key stages, exploring periods and novels that we all love teaching, and this has been received very well by our classes.

However, it would be great to create some excitement around external competitions and challenges too. Of course, it will involve some extra planning and preparation on my part. I’m giving up a few lunchtimes to facilitate sessions and it will involve lots and scanning and submitting of entries, but I’m making the most of my ability to do this while I’m on a reduced timetable.

I have decided to start small, launching a local writing competition that involves students creating short pieces to submit to a local panel. They will progress through to different stages and there are some great prizes to be won along the way.
I really want students to enjoy the experience – of course, competition and challenge are good, but the point, more importantly, is that creativity is nurtured and cultivated beyond the students’ curriculum timetable.

I am already thinking ahead to how I can promote their hard work in-house: perhaps a collected anthology or published volume of all the entries, or even a “book launch”-style event for parents and other students to see the finished pieces.
I have seen this kind of thing in other schools and I think it is a fantastic way to celebrate the successes of young people.

This is definitely an area of the job that I really enjoy. I have the opportunity to work with students who I might not teach on a day-to-day basis, and generally the premise is that because it is voluntary, the students who enter are extremely enthusiastic!

During the manic periods of an academic year it provides a well-needed reprieve from what can feel like the day-to-day struggles.

If you’re considering undertaking similar activities, I would definitely recommend looking for some subject-specific competitions and challenges – there are plenty to choose from!

  • Our NQT diarist this year is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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