NQT Special: Meeting the Teachers’ Standards...

Written by: Dr Bernard Trafford | Published:
Dr Bernard Trafford

As term one comes to a close, Dr Bernard Trafford picks out some of the Teachers’ Standards that NQTs might focus on in the new year...

You’ve made it this far: congratulations! That’s no empty compliment. Whatever training route you followed for your post, this first term is the most demanding and tiring you’ll ever face.

Everything’s been new, experienced for the first time and with three weeks or so to go, you’re digging deep into reserves of energy and considering survival strategies. This is perfectly normal.

But getting through to the end of this tough first term in the profession needs to be about more than just counting down the days. Take a little time (I know there isn’t any: but this is important) to take stock.

First, give yourself credit for what you’ve done. You’ve survived! That’s no mean achievement. However helpful your school’s initial programme of induction was (and I hope it was good: you deserve no less), you’ve been thrown in at the deep end, because that’s how teaching works.

You had to start immediately on building your working relationships with the classes you teach, whatever their age, your subject or your specialism. You had to get over that feeling of “imposter syndrome”, establish yourself as a professional, and deal with those tricky groups or disruptive individuals. You had to be prepared and on top of every lesson from day one. And there were all those school routines to get your head round. But you’ve done it. So pat yourself on the back.

So what now? As an NQT, you’ll be thinking about the formal induction process and meeting those eight Teachers’ Standards:

  1. Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils.
  2. Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils.
  3. Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge.
  4. Plan and teach well structured lessons.
  5. Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils.
  6. Make accurate and productive use of assessment.
  7. Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment.
  8. Fulfil wider professional responsibilities.

Some key things to think about now might include Standard 3, which of course includes showing a commitment to your CPD. It’s about seeing where you need to improve your professional knowledge, understanding and practice and, where necessary, taking steps to address your needs.

It is about learning the job, and learning on the job. Your mentor, induction tutor, head of department, however the role is shaped or shared, should be helping you there, observing lessons and talking through what they see. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In terms of your wider development, at this stage, watching a couple of experienced colleagues may be more useful than attending a course out of school.

Then there’s classroom behaviour (Standard 7). Every new teacher has moments with difficult groups. Most experienced ones do, too. Don’t believe the old lag in the staffroom who claims never to: it’s likely that, either willfully or blindly, they’ve stopped noticing.
Sometimes it takes humility to admit you’re struggling: finding the courage to seek help is invariably rewarded by reciprocal honesty from colleagues.

Part of Standard 8, is “developing effective professional relationships with colleagues”. This is vital, because collaboration between teachers is central to what we do. This is all about a reflective and collaborative profession and the constant, shared quest for improvement and progress.

To be sure, you’ll come across teachers so amazing that you despair of emulating them: but you have much to share, too. Your struggles with introducing new topics or assessing progress are as valid as everyone else’s, and you bring a fresh view. Moreover, I’ve always reckoned that the best ideas in teaching are imitated (shamelessly nicked) and adapted to suit one’s own particular context: aim to be both a lender and a borrower.

Another key point for many NQTs, and of relevance to achieving many of the Standards, is whether you make optimal use of the assistants you have in the classroom. Possibly not – yet. Research tends to demonstrate that teachers in general don’t use assistants well: it’s yet another area to share and collaborate on. Why not ask the assistants you work with whether you get the best out of them?

You must also have a “clear understanding of the needs of all pupils” (Standard 5), and so you may want to increase your understanding of SEND issues and of applying pupils’ Individual Education Plans.

I am sure there are other areas that you, in discussion with your mentor and managers, have identified for improvement in the new year. But don’t beat yourself up. You’re only 11 or so weeks into full-time teaching, with much still to absorb. By contrast, if you feel that you’re safely on top of some aspects, leave them as they are for now, and move on: there’s enough else to do.

One final point that might be looming large right now – with a likely crop of reports to write and/or parents’ evenings to negotiate – is working with parents. This includes “communicating effectively with parents with regard to pupils’achievements and wellbeing” (Standard 8).

Make sure your supporters and guides help you in this vital area. Every school has its own culture and its peculiar way of working with parents: and, let’s be honest, actual practice may not operate quite as stated in the printed policy.

If you’re writing reports, don’t set every class a test (which you then have to mark) so you have something to report on. Trust your judgement, and your knowledge of your pupils: they’ll be more reliable than figures in a spreadsheet, in any case.

Try to do all of this thinking now. Don’t leave it until Christmas, when you need to take a break and relax. If you need help or opportunities to learn, ask your mentor, induction tutor, head of department. They’re there not merely to check that you’re doing what’s needful, but to support you: demand that help!

Above all, though, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that great teachers are made, not born. Remind yourself of the good bits, the things you’re pleased with, and don’t dwell on your mistakes or failings. Don’t allow end-of-term pressures to make you skip those activities – running, singing, playing hockey or whatever – that you do to maintain your health and sanity: you’ll need those qualities more than ever in these last few weeks. You’re doing a great job: stick at it, and good luck!

  • Dr Bernard Trafford is a writer and educationist, a former head and past chair of HMC.

Further information

Teachers’ Standards, Department for Education, July 2011 (updated June 2013): http://bit.ly/1MAWT7n

NQT Special Edition

This article has been published as part of SecEd’s autumn 2017 NQT Special Edition – eight pages of guidance, advice and practical tips for new teachers. Topics range from wellbeing, workload an work/life balance, to classroom advice, feedback tips, behaviour management and advice about your own rights and entitlements. You can download the entire eight-page section as a free pdf via http://bit.ly/2Bv5dIc


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