Five top tips to support and empower Newly Qualified Teachers, in a year like no other – by Eve Hedley, PiXL MFL Lead and Associate, former Deputy Headteacher
Supporting NQTs in a rather different first year of teaching.
NQTs often breathe new life into schools, with their enthusiasm, passion and daring ideas. It is important that we continue to nurture and develop this energy and creativity, in spite of the new restrictions in schools. We may need to review our current NQT programme,
giving greater consideration to the different types of support they will need this year. One thing’s for sure, they will need reassurance that although this year will present challenges, it will be rewarding, and they will have an abundance of support behind them.
Things to consider:
Choose the right person to mentor NQTs. This person does not have to be an outstanding teacher, but they do need to be an outstanding person in terms of care and support.
Review the focus and content of sessions NQTs receive. Are they still relevant? Do they need to be adapted for the ‘new normal’?
Create a NQT designated online area which provides guidance, training and resources.
Make NQTs aware of online resources such as GCSEPod that will help them to reduce workload and will give them ideas for effective teaching and learning.
Have regular one to one meetings (virtually or socially distanced) and keep an open door.
Create a WhatsApp group so any thoughts and worries can be shared.
Create a wider network of support for NQTs to connect with.
Train the trainer – give training and guidance to curriculum leads and subject mentors on how best to support early career teachers.
GIve them time.
Remember NQTs did not have the full ITT year in school last year, due to lock down. This means the quality of support they receive in schools this year is even more important. Although many will have continued with self-study during lockdown and have had support, this is no substitute for being in school with students and pupils. This year’s NQTS may need a little longer to develop and get to grips with the demands of teaching.
A good place to start is to focus on any transition targets set by their provider and build from there.
Familiarise yourself with the Early Career Framework.
The ECF provides schools with induction programmes and high-quality developmental materials to use with NQTS to help them to develop successful careers. You can use the materials alongside your own school programme too.
‘The ECF was designed to make sure early career teachers focus on learning the things that make the most difference in the classroom and their professional practice.’
Less is more.
In recent times, it seems to have become customary to provide NQTs with everything they could possibly need to teach a lesson. They are given pre-prepared worksheets, PowerPoint presentations and even lesson plans, in the hope this will help them get off to a flying start. This may seem supportive, however is this really helping them to develop their craft and hone their ability to create bespoke lessons of their own? Providing too much, means new teachers simply have to deliver a PowerPoint, rather than going through the process of designing their own lesson.
We all know the importance of creating independent learners and ensuring our students don’t become too reliant on us. Perhaps we need to think about how we get the right balance of support and independence for our NQTs too.
The big picture.
Curriculum is such a key focus for schools but is also something we don’t necessarily involve our early career teachers with. If you want your NQTs to see the big picture so they can develop fully, get them to contribute to curriculum design. Give them responsibility of creating or updating a section of a scheme of work. Not only will this give them an insight into the long-term sequencing of knowledge and skills for their subject or class, it will also make them feel valued.
Using the extra time on NQTs’ timetable to allow them to do joint lesson observations with experienced colleagues is an excellent way of developing their knowledge of methodology and evaluation skills. It also makes them reflect on their own practice while giving them an understanding of how their lessons will be evaluated.
Don’t forget to remind them of the bigger picture in terms of their career choice too. Tell them often, especially when times are difficult, that they have entered into one of the only professions which allows them to influence and have a positive impact on the future lives of children and young people.