Wow! I am two-thirds into this busy, most demanding of years. Having had a good Easter break, including plenty of chocolate, drinking tea in the garden and trying to recharge, I feel quite sprightly and energised for the run through to July.
During the holiday, however, I did feel several pangs of school reality and what this term might actually involve.
Pang number one: managing the NQT paperwork – how much is adequate, acceptable and appropriate? Hopefully mine is shaping up okay – evidencing each standard and recording accurately my successes and development areas is what the school and county council are looking for. I did speak with an “NQT+1” before breaking for Easter to try and gauge if my folder is evolving as it should. I was fairly reassured but having an imminent NQT Progress Audit this half-term I am setting my standards high.
Pang number two: my year 11 GCSE class, having taught them for the majority of the two-year course (as I was their year 10 teacher last year when training), I now have the very daunting and grown up responsibility of their results to bear in August.
The phenomenon of residuals and being benchmarked against their other subjects is a frightening concept. I am usually satisfied in the classroom, feeling like they are all pretty competent and quite able to do well in the exam, but is this a naïve view?
I believe I have taught them well and covered all the bases, but I might have missed something. I don’t get the opportunity to see my year 11s elsewhere, so do I fully know what they are capable of and if I am stretching them enough – or too much?
On the positive side, our school has a “Home run to GCSE” strategy, whereby we focus in this short period prior to exams to provide targets for each and every pupil. They have three weeks of normal timetabling before their “home run” bespoke and unique timetable is issued, including revision sessions, turbo sessions and workshops for them to attend.
So over Easter I have made many revision tools and aids for this pacey month ahead. Will they all be useful, probably not. Will they be models to adapt and improve for the future, yes I hope so.
I am hoping for a period which provides a mixture of self-driven revision, past papers with mark schemes, and practice opportunities, whether it be individually or in groups, plus facilitating the filling of any gaps in a pupil’s learning.
One thing we are pioneering as a department, on which I am leading, is to focus some pupils onto the middle range questions. Historically, we have pushed all our GCSE pupils into focusing on the final essay questions in our exam papers. However a respectable GCSE grade can be achieved by answering the shorter mark and middle range questions very well, and some pupils are often daunted by them.
Therefore, in my planning and resources design I have integrated more of the mid-range questions, because doing these well could move a pupil up a grade. We are of course addressing strategies for the essay questions too, giving pupils the opportunities to achieve the B, A and A* grades.
Pang number three: this is the pressure to remain active with my key stage 3 pupils, ensuring they receive some great learning opportunities, and maintaining healthy seating plans in order to keep collaboration active and disruption to a minimum.
Likewise the extra punch of excitement is important for them this term as there is opportunity for a great deal of fun to be had, including Activities Week, sports days and school trips. Their enthusiasm and engagement in lessons needs to be equally high and the hooks into learning need to be powerful and targeted to create great experiences that are long-lasting.
So with lighter evenings and some sunshine, may all these targets be achieved!
SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.