NQT Special Edition: Being prepared for when September comes...

Written by: Julian Stanley | Published:
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This year’s NQTs will soon be preparing for year 2 in September, while trainees will be steeling themselves for their own NQT year. Julian Stanley advises

Being an NQT is undeniably tough. For those coming to the end of the year, you may be starting to reflect as you come up for air. Exhausted, elated, you’ve almost done it. You’re nearly there and you’ve lived to tell the tale! You will have been through an incredible, upward learning curve and no doubt experienced plenty of unexpected highs and lows along the way.

Meanwhile, for those about to embark on their NQT year, you might be feeling trepidation and nervousness as well as great anticipation as you prepare to step into a school where you will finally be able to make your mark on a daily basis.

Preparing for your NQT year

We asked current NQTs (with thanks to Twinkl’s NQT Facebook community) to share their advice and survival tips based on what they have learnt as they look back on this year. Here are the most frequent suggestions they made to help those trainees now preparing for NQT life in September to make it through their first year in a classroom:

  1. Finding the right school that will support you during your NQT year is essential. Do not jump at the first job you are offered if you are not sure about it. Consider supply teaching until you find the right job as support will be essential to you for this year.
  2. Get yourself organised before the year starts. Have files and folders ready with all the important documents you are likely to use, ready to add and refer to on a regular basis. A USB stick is a necessity, as you will pick up so much material along the way. You may not use it all but you’ll know where it is. Everyone has days when they haven’t planned so much and this could be a life-saver.
  3. Plan ahead. It will help you feel much more in control and it will show in your lessons. If difficult behaviour is a particular issue, spend some time rehearsing likely scenarios and how you might deal with them.
  4. Be kind to yourself. You will make plenty of mistakes and you will learn from them.
  5. If you are lucky enough to have the support of teaching assistants, worship them! Their value cannot be over-estimated. They are worth their weight in gold and will help make your job a lot easier. Spend time building your relationships with them and let them know how much you appreciate them.
  6. Give verbal feedback in classes to reduce marking and make it more effective. It is something that many very experienced teachers increasingly recommend and plenty of evidence shows that verbal feedback is far more likely to result in improvement. Peer-marking can make a great difference in reducing workload too.
  7. Spend time at the start of the year getting to know your class and everything else will soon become more manageable.
  8. Be consistent with the hours you work and prioritise. Have a to-do list but accept that once you’ve got through the day’s priorities, it’s important to set a cut-off on anything that is just a “nice to have”, rather than an absolute priority.
  9. Make time for yourself and your life. Spend one night a week doing something that makes you feel like yourself. One current NQT told us she has stuck to a “wellbeing Wednesday”.
  10. Last but by no means least, always ask for help when you need it. Time and again this was one of the main pieces of advice many current NQTs gave – ask, ask and ask again. Remember, your colleagues will expect you to ask plenty of questions.

Preparing for year 2

For current NQTs, now too is the time to take your own advice and think ahead to September. What can you do before your hard-won summer break that will make your fully qualified return easier? Your knowledge gained this year is invaluable and will be your foundation on which to build as you progress your career. Do this now and it will also help you to benefit fully from the summer break (especially if you are inclined to “worry and ruminate”).

We are supporting academics at City University, London in an on-going study, which has found that even short breaks appear to play a vital role in enabling teacher’s emotional energy and psychological health to be restored.

For all, the importance of the upcoming holiday cannot be emphasised enough. It may be tempting to plan lots of activity but ensure you also factor in plenty of down-time for yourself. As the only UK charity providing counselling and support for anyone working in education, almost half of the calls that Education Support Partnership takes on our free helpline are related to mental health conditions including stress, anxiety and depression.

Rest and relaxation not only restore wellbeing, they also have the power to build resilience that is proven to be carried well into the new school year. So whatever stage you are at, congratulations on getting this far! Take a little time now to make sure you plan your reward and vow now and for the future to make the most of your summer!

  • Julian Stanley is the CEO of the Education Support Partnership.

Further information

  • For help or advice on any issue facing those working in education, contact the free 24-hour helpline on 08000 562 561 or visit www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk
  • City University’s Teacher Wellbeing Research is assessing teachers’ work demands and wellbeing including working and non-working periods during the year. The work is being led by Dr Paul Flaxman in the university’s Department of Psychology. Visit http://bit.ly/2sPojXG

NQT Special Edition

This article was published as part of SecEd’s NQT Special Edition. The publication offered eight pages of specialist best practice advice for NQTs and trainee teachers across the UK. Supported by the NASUWT the special edition published on June 29, 2017, and the eight pages are available to download as a free pdf from SecEd’s Supplements page: www.sec-ed.co.uk/supplements


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