Diary of an NQT: Gain time? What gain time?!

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:

With exams underway, teachers are looking forward to making the most of their gain time. But not our NQT diarist, who only has one year 11 class

This week my first ever year 11 class had their first ever GCSE exam. They lined up nervously with their brand new pencil cases and their label-less bottles.

As I passed on my way to my first lesson, students in my class were desperately asking me questions: “What was that Bible quote again, Miss?” “How can I define awe?!”

Their panicked faces made me remember my very first GCSE.

In a way they looked like they were actually enjoying the drama of it; students feigning panic attacks and fanning their faces as if about to pass out. “Oh my God Miss, I’m going to be sick!” shrieked one girl – probably the brightest in the class. I cannot believe for one minute she actually felt that nervous – she’s never got below an A this year – but she was getting caught up in the drama of it too.

As they toddled off to their exam, I wandered back to my room to enjoy the infamous “gain time” I was now entitled to. My first exam class has gone and flown the nest, so now this time is mine to plan, prepare, mark etc.

Last year I remember hearing teachers brag about their gain time, exclaiming just how few classes they would have during exam season. Obviously, I was looking forward to this part of the year. Summer is coming, the sun (should be) shining, and we have more time to prepare for next year.

Well, that’s what I imagined anyway. In fact, I only have one year 11 class this year and they only have four hours of classes a fortnight. So really, I have only gained four frees.

FOUR FREES you say?! That’s so much extra time – I should be able to get everything sorted for the new GCSE and A level I am taking on next year. I’ll have so much time, I’ll easily be able to prepare the lessons for the new year 11 spec.

In reality, those four hours of gain time a fortnight have already been allocated. In the 16 hours of gain time I have until the end of the year, I am supposed to plan a 10-lesson unit for the year 11 RS course (to be shared with the department), re-organise and replan the entire year 9 citizenship course, adapt and improve the year 10 RS resources, mark and moderate two year 10 mock exams, plan half a unit for the year 7 humanities course, and get to grips with and prepare for teaching a whole new subject to GCSE and A level students.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s all going to happen. I know my head of department doesn’t mean to overload me. In fact, I’m sure their list is much longer. It is great that we have such a sharing environment in our department that we all divvy up the jobs and the planning, but when one out of the four is head of year 9 and another is head of faculty, it only really leaves two of us to do a lot of the leg work. It’s not that they don’t planning work (or do huge amounts of other work) – we each take a unit for the new year to plan – it’s just that there is too much to be done.

Whenever something new pops up that needs to be done by September, someone says,“Oh, we’ll do that in gain time,” or “Oh, you’ll have time for that when the year 11s go – can you take care of it?” As if gain time is some infinite space which lets us pause time and get everything done.

I know that, in the end, any extra time is a good thing. I just hope that I am not actually expected to get everything on that list completed by the end of the exam period.

  • SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of citizenship, RE and humanities at a school in England.


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