Diary of an NQT: The countdown to GCSEs

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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With exams on the horizon, the pressure to run extra sessions and interventions is mounting, but our NQT diarist is making sure to protect her work/life balance

We’re more than halfway through the academic year. Overall, routines are in place and things such as observations and NQT paperwork are becoming more instinctive and natural.

It feels as if each half-term is quickening its pace, however, and the inevitable countdown to the GCSE exams has begun.

I have been thinking about my professional duties, both as a teacher and a mentor figure, in relation to my year 11 students. After a shaky start to the year (when I was worried that student apathy seemed to be spreading like the plague), they seem to have pulled their socks up after the mocks and seem fairly focused.

There are still a few students with whom I am battling in terms of attitude and application in class. And while it is the minority, it is still exhausting trying to make them see their own potential.

After another rather repetitive conversation last week with one of these students, I was taken aback when they asked: “Miss, when are you going to be doing after-school revision?”

It seems to be the new buzzword around our school at the moment, so much so that our wonderful senior leadership team has had to make it very clear that there is absolutely no expectation that teachers provide extra sessions or “interventions”. It is at the discretion of the class teacher.

This does alleviate the pressure massively when considering the weighty workload that we are already facing at this time of year. However, the underlying concern is that this student feels they can pick and choose when to work to their full ability during lessons and then expect us to help them catch up or cram by laying on additional sessions.

Meanwhile, I’m frazzled with chasing this student for missed homework and losing my lunch times due to running detentions, etc.

After school sessions should not be plan B for students who avoided paying attention in the first place. Not to mention, the injustice of forcing extra session on students who work tirelessly for five hours-a-day, five days-a-week. I completely agree that a line must be drawn at some rational point.

Much of my year 11 “intervention” takes place during lessons. I plan and adjust according to my own formative assessing week-by-week and include specific exam preparation support too, such as using PPE (point, proof explanation) techniques.
In theory, there’s nothing extra I can teach my students; content has been covered to the nth degree and just by reading back through their exercise books and notes valuable independent study can now take place.

I do, however, want to extend the opportunity to students who I can see are feeling the pressure, so I have decided to do sessions with no more than five students focusing on building confidence and exam/essay writing skills. These will be students that have worked hard consistently but could benefit from more concentrated attention that it isn’t always possible to give them in a class of 30.

Knowing that I’m not being forced into doing such sessions makes such a difference to my own level of personal motivation; it’s down to my own professional judgement whether or not I feel that students need some extra nurturing before their exams.

During my ITT year, I distinctly remember hearing lots of conversations about intervention, and how the model just isn’t sustainable for both student and teacher.
Being in the thick of it this year and knowing how hard I’ve worked for these students does make it easier to say “no” in such situations.

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


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