Diary of an NQT: Thinking about key stage 3

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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Away from the pressure of examinations, teaching key stage 3 is liberating and allows our NQT diarist to push the boundaries of her teaching

I have been thinking about how much of my time and effort is taken up by the priorities of key stage 4.

Of course, this is paramount to our job; the challenge of GCSEs – for both students and teachers – often feels like an overwhelming exertion at this point in the academic year.

While I do enjoy my time teaching key stage 4, I have noticed a pattern as I look ahead at my timetable: I seem to breathe a sigh of relief when I am graced with a day that is made up of mainly key stage 3 lessons.

It feels as if I have more room for spontaneity and creativity in these lessons and I believe that this is often reflected in my teaching style, lesson preparation and even, at times, my teaching persona.

This is a sad realisation, but it is inevitable perhaps that exam preparation can often be repetitive and exasperating.

On reflection, it has made me realise just how precious key stage 3 is. A strong curriculum that simultaneously allows time for exploration into a particular subject is invaluable and can have a high impact with students.

Each day, I witness my classes evolve in their own abilities as they have the capacity to build on skills, address misconceptions and embrace complex and tricky concepts with a great attitude – all due to a less pressurised environment.

It is wonderful and refreshing to be able to mediate the learning at this level. I often find myself more inclined to facilitate students with gentle direction and guidance. This in turn is slowly building a sense of resilience and independence in these key stage 3 learners – just what they need as they prepare for GCSE, further education and beyond.

So I have made it a priority to maintain my year 7’s fervent enthusiasm that they have brought with them from primary school.

Meanwhile, I adore the comical competitiveness in my year 8 class, which makes me brim with pride. And on a weekly basis I am embracing the lightbulb moments with my year 9s, who are beginning to see the subtle links between the content they are studying and the skills they will require to successfully see them through the next two years and beyond.

These are the elements that are needed on a regular basis to refuel my love for teaching.

However, devoting time to key stage 3 can often be tricky. I have definitely realised this during my first year of teaching, which is why I am making a conscious effort at the moment to find the time to ensure that some of the best teaching I deliver is at this level.

Indeed, I often use key stage 3 as a springboard for methods and approaches in the classroom – I owe a lot to my students, who have often been my guinea pigs while I work through the trying and testing of different tactics.

Their receptiveness and eagerness are two things that I have been wholly appreciative for in my first year of teaching. They have helped me become more confident in my role in the classroom and with my teaching skills.

Having said this, I hope I can create a legacy that lasts them through the academic years to come when I feel that too often the love of a particular subject is put at risk of being dulled by the nature of exam practice.

I adore my key stage 3 lessons and will never take them for granted!

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


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