NQT development: Thriving – not just surviving

Written by: Adrian Kidd | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

With half of his workforce being new to teaching, headteacher Adrian Kidd describes the systems of support and CPD that allow his NQTs to thrive in their first years at the chalkface

Trumpington Community College is a relatively new school on the southern fringe of Cambridge. Three hundred students are currently on roll from years 7 to 10, building to an eventual capacity of 750.

It is a school leading in the highly integrated use of technology to support new approaches to teaching and learning.
September 2018 saw a significant increase in the school’s roll with a four-form intake for year 7. Recruitment leading up to this was required across all subject areas. This was the opportunity to further develop a dynamic and outward-facing team of practitioners able to take the school’s vision to the next level.

Recruiting the best people

I have long held the belief that NQTs bring a fresh perspective and vibrancy to a school and I was keen to expand and include more NQT colleagues. Half of staff recruited to the school were new to the profession, and they are certainly among the very best I have had the pleasure to work alongside.

The process started with a different approach to recruitment. The school has a very clear culture for innovation and use of research-based evidence to inform its strategy. This is underpinned by a strong and coherent vision and set of values that clearly identify what is expected in terms of practice.

All NQTs who applied were invited to meet with me in the first instance for an informal one-to-one discussion. I used these discussions to clearly communicate the school’s rationale for its vision and ethos. This was further reinforced by a tour of a school which demonstrated the high standards we have.

We made clear that a great deal of hard work would be expected but that the payback would be worth it. We provide all staff with a robust and coherent professional development programme, excellent staff welfare and work/life balance, the support to try out new ideas that may transform the school’s practice further, and exposure to some of the best and most influential people within education. It is important that everyone who works at the school is fully tuned and committed to our vision, values, ethos and culture.

We then gave applicants a 24-hour period of time to decide whether to continue with their application: if so, they might then be shortlisted. The result was that everyone who chose to continue with the application process were fully aligned to our vision and culture. The interview standard was the highest I have experienced and we now have an incredible team of high-calibre colleagues who I have immense pride in.

Skilling-up your team

Over the years, I have challenged the efficacy of INSET days and questioned colleagues’ attendance at associated workshops or seminars, for example.

I do not believe that there is an effective nor consistent cascade or sharing of good practice under these approaches and, following on from this, I do not feel there is sufficient evidence of sustained impact or “stickability” of the practice shared. This ultimately can be an enormous waste of time.

So over the years I have learned to invest heavily in all colleagues’ development, especially NQTs. Get it right with these colleagues and you have a solid bedrock for continuing school improvement and long-term strength.

Building on the rationale above that questions, broadly speaking, most INSET design and delivery models, my conclusion is clear: the colleagues who will require the greatest initial professional support and development at the start of their careers are all too often being unintentionally let down.

While I recognise that there are many schools that provide superb NQT and whole-staff CPD programmes, most are delivered on a weekly basis after school. Again, I question this rationale: in a time-deficit profession why are we using up such a precious commodity in this way?

Of all colleagues, NQTs need the most time to settle in and be effective. From my previous experience, I know that the pressure faced when trying to balance the day job only increases when additional meetings are added onto the working day, whether that be training or otherwise.

The NQT year should not be about just surviving, rather it should be about flourishing. The challenge therefore is interesting. How can INSET delivery be improved to be consistent for high impact, and frequent for stickability? How can NQTs be given time to flourish yet benefit from high-quality CPD? How can new colleagues with a fresh perspective support more experienced staff, and in return benefit from the sharing of their great practice honed over the years?

The answer for us was to approach the mechanism of CPD delivery in a different way and to ensure that on-going development for everyone was a daily experience.

This strategy would also bring together colleagues new to the profession alongside those who are well-established and able to share great practice. It would also remove the need to have a formalised programme of NQT-specific development twilight sessions and free up INSET days for other essential tasks that support school improvement priorities.

The starting point for this redevelopment was to understand directed time commitment. Daily CPD requires a level of commitment to support consistent strong engagement and effective delivery across the school.

So, unnecessary meetings were removed from the annual calendar with the benefit of releasing time and reducing after-school commitments. Fifteen minutes per morning were then introduced for daily CPD. Consultation with colleagues allowed a rationale to be presented and for collaborative input into design and implementation. Existing meetings were redesigned to be more focused and a new internal communications strategy removed the need for daily staff briefings.

Daily CPD was also linked to the explicit redevelopment of the appraisals process, introducing one target based around a research project that addressed an aspect of the school improvement plan.

This process was introduced in September. We now see joined up regular training that involves the whole school staff. Among our morning sessions, one morning per week is dedicated to a staff briefing. On rotation, a second morning is dedicated to promoting literacy and numeracy across the school, SEND or effective use of technology.

The three remaining mornings are focused on training around core teaching and learning principles and effective pedagogy.

Some of these morning sessions are also “released” for colleagues to undertake their own research, to implement strategies and formulate feedback for impact evaluation. Colleagues work individually or collaboratively according to need.

Sessions are delivered by a range of colleagues who are able to share impact and effective practice. Colleagues are provided with up to £50 each to buy resources when needed. We also give staff the chance to engage with research by attending events such as ResearchEd.

It all means that our NQTs have been presented with an exposure to wide-ranging professional development that has not been available before. Classroom visits clearly evidence a consistency in the use and application of research-based techniques, such as from Lemov, The Learning Scientists and Rosenshine. Their inclusive practice is developing through regular exposure to effective differentiated pedagogies.

Some NQTs have also delivered this training to whole-school staff. In the case of very high-calibre NQTs, opportunity to engage in whole-school leadership has been provided. This is supported by a tailored leadership development programme, both in-house and via the multi-academy trust.

Our new colleagues have brought a vibrancy to the school and we are fortunate to have them. It will be exciting to be able to look back on this in a year’s time to see just how much they will have flourished.

  • Adrian Kidd is headteacher of Trumpington Community College and an alumni of Ambition School Leadership’s Future Leaders programme.

Ambition School Leadership

Ambition School Leadership is a charity that runs leadership development programmes in England to help school leaders create more impact in schools that serve disadvantaged children and their communities. Visit www.ambitionschoolleadership.org.uk


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