NQT Special: Attainment, CPD and management skills

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For our NQT Special Edition, we asked three middle leaders to share their advice across vital areas for NQTs and new teachers – raising pupil attainment, CPD and management skills

Raising pupil attainment: The ‘so what..?’ principle

Victoria Richley, English teacher with responsibility for NQTs, St Wilfred’s RC College, South Shields

As an NQT, I shared a lesson plan which had a specific focus on planning for pupil progress with a colleague and asked for some feedback. He took one look at my array of Assessment for Learning strategies and asked me a simple question that has arguably become the lynchpin of my entire practice: “So what..?”

You’ve noticed pupil A is struggling to articulate the learning and pupil B is able to evaluate the learning – so what will you do? You identified a pupil is one level behind target – so what will you do to help them make progress in today’s lesson? Raising attainment and ensuring all pupils make progress in both the short and long-term is at the forefront of every initial teacher training programme, the forefront of the NQT induction year and indeed the forefront of every experienced teacher’s mind when planning.

Unfortunately, attainment is often pushed to the side by other pressing concerns, such as behaviour management and the latest exciting teaching fads.

Having the “so what..?” principle in mind whenever we plan and teach should ensure that all classroom activity is aimed towards further pupil progress.

The ‘so what..?’ principle in action

“So what..?” is a regular feature in my conversations with NQTs, leading to a number of exciting innovations to improve pupil attainment. One NQT identified that the feedback she gave pupils on examination questions could be more meaningful.

She used the “so what..?” principle to shape a more efficient, personal and directive method of providing formative feedback to the class. When marking questions, she draws out common class mistakes and takes two specific further steps to enable pupils to build upon their feedback:

1 Provides feedback on each question using the examiner’s notes to guide.
2 Directs pupils to either an expected progress question to re-attempt the skill tested in a slightly different context, or an above expected progress question which embeds or extends knowledge with a more challenging question.

Don’t just assess pupil learning and stop there – always think: “So what should I do with this information to raise pupil attainment?”

CPD on a shoestring

Samantha Tumelty, head of business, St Wilfred’s RC College

CPD is a common concept in education, but the meaning and focus can differ significantly in every NQT’s setting. At its heart, however, CPD should be about support, development and opportunities.

Reflecting upon our practice is vital and one of the most developmental tools we have as educational practitioners, but often this is something that less time is dedicated to as you progress within teaching.

Below, I have outlined some common CPD opportunities and a few ways in which you can maximise these in the long-term.


The most innovative ideas and creative strategies I employ in my classroom come from observing the fresh approaches demonstrated by NQTs and others in my setting and in other schools.

Many positive actions and strategies are generated as a result of reflecting upon practice and feedback with a colleague. You can analyse through two lenses how the lesson went, what the data shows and how the pupils feel about their learning. This feedback should provoke thought as an NQT, but most importantly create action.

Furthermore, as an NQT who is observed at various times in a year, you are being observed using the most up-to-date and current frameworks, so to some degree you are ahead of colleagues who may have become stuck on a previous set of measures. You have a greater understanding of what is required of you, how to evidence this and you will have gained feedback on this many times more than some colleagues.

CPD sessions

Stepping out of the classroom, the vast range of internal and external sessions available need not be seen as overwhelming but an opportunity to make the most of your options. Internally, you will have some compulsory sessions that should underpin your school’s goals or vision or should influence the support that you provide to young people.

However, you also need to take accountability for your personal CPD and further your skills and knowledge in a way that is bespoke to you. Consider your school’s research and development group and look to explore an area of education that interests you, such as giving effective feedback or homework strategies.

Consider sharing good practice with colleagues who teach a different curriculum area and evaluate new teaching strategies together.

Finally, if budget allows, looking externally will provide you with an abundance of CPD opportunities from coaching and mentoring to Pupil Premium interventions or mental health training.

Many organisations offer CPD linked to a field or area which costs little or nothing to partake in. If you are a faith school, your local diocese will offer many training opportunities; if not, teaching unions offer some fantastic courses free of charge. You may not think you need them now, but no course or training is without merit, so consider your NQT year as one where you can also build your CV as you go.

Mentoring and coaching

Mentoring focuses on the individual, while coaching focuses on your performance. Mentoring allows NQTs to have a designated role-model who will support and guide them within their new role. They will help you embrace the new community in which you work and look at ways to build support networks with other colleagues. With mentoring there is a focus upon support and advice.

Meanwhile, as a coachee you will work on finding your own answers to a problem and drawing conclusions through supportive questioning and direction.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Your mentor or coach should be selected to collaborate with you because they are suited to helping you gain the most from the NQT year. It is vital that you remember that you are both professionals and feel able to discuss how the sessions can be most effective for both parties.

When we think how we can get the most from CPD we must remember that we do this to be outstanding practitioners, with pupils at the centre of all we do. We are developing not only for the pupils who sit in our classes each week but also for those yet to walk through our classroom doors. CPD is about today and tomorrow.

Management skills

Asa Wiseman, teaching and learning coach, Heath Lane Academy, Leicestershire

As an NQT 10 years ago, my sole responsibility was for teaching and learning. However, this wasn’t always how things panned out. I was a member of a small department and therefore it was important for me to develop professional relationships with colleagues who were in more senior positions as I knew I would need support.

As an NQT, it is vital to establish a rapport with the people you will have both direct and indirect contact with, as sooner or later you will need to manage upwards (as well as downwards) to make sure people stick to deadlines and remain accountable for outcomes.

Remember that it’s not only those within your department, but also colleagues in reprographics, catering and finance who will need to be “managed” by you at some point.

As a middle leader I have developed the following strategies for managing effectively across the board:

  • Take a notebook to meetings: make sure you note down anything that you are being asked to do including the deadline and who it’s for. You can also do this when asking others to complete tasks for you. Make sure you include the date and time of any meetings – you should get minutes but this isn’t always the case.
  • Send email reminders: we should all appreciate that our colleagues are busy, but a gentle reminder can go a long way towards securing a positive outcome.
  • Have face-to-face discussions: make sure if you’re selling something to a colleague (head of department/senior leader) you discuss it with them. Practise what you will say first and plan it out. People will be impressed if you appear organised and have clarity in what you discussing.
  • Hold people to account: as daunting as it may sound it is important for you to make sure people are challenged to complete work on your behalf (and don’t forget they will have already agreed to help you in most cases). You will be busy enough without having to chase staff that have missed your deadline. Make sure you develop a good rapport with your head of department and NQT mentor as they will be vital to you securing a successful NQT year.
  • Finally, be confident: if you are well-planned and organised, remind staff of their responsibilities and hold people to account, then you will eventually become a successful manager. This should stand you in good stead for future leadership opportunities as they arise later in your career.
  • This article was compiled by three Teaching Leaders Fellows. Teaching Leaders is an education charity whose mission is to address educational disadvantage by developing middle leaders working in schools in challenging contexts. Visit www.teachingleaders.org.uk

NQT Special Edition

This article was published as part of SecEd's NQT Special Edition on June 30, 2016. Published with support from the NASUWT, the Special Edition features eight pages of best practice and advisory articles aimed at NQTs as they come to the end of their first year of teaching, and trainee teachers as they prepare for NQT life in September. Download a free pdf of the Special Edition, via our Supplements page at www.sec-ed.co.uk/supplements or directly via http://bit.ly/290nqhD


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