The NQT’s survival guide
Here’s another chance to read our feature, ‘The NQT’s Survival Guide’. Originally published last year, here are three different takes on the NQT year from the perspective of the teacher, mentor, and headteacher.
As Newly Qualified Teachers all over Wales start their induction year, EWC has teamed up with Holly Norcliffe, who completed her induction year in summer 2016 at Ysgol Llywelyn in Rhyl, her school-based mentor Ben Cox and headteacher Mari Gaskell. In this feature, each give their perspective on how you can make your NQT year a success.
A mentor's perspective - Ben Cox
If you are reading this then chances are you have completed your route into the teaching profession and are now embarking on your NQT Year. Whether through supply or a full time post it is important that this year goes well and that you are given the opportunity to put to use all the knowledge and skills that you have gained through your course.
As a school-based mentor I have seen the challenges faced by NQTs and following an excellent and successful year with Holly as an NQT I felt that the first-hand experience that we could offer on what to expect in your first year of teaching would help and reassure those new to the classroom. Here, along with contributions from Holly, her external mentor and headteacher, is a brief outline on what to expect and how you too can have a successful induction.
My role was to guide and support Holly through her first year of teaching. Communication with your mentor is one of the keys to success. Although it is important to be able to work independently no one is expecting you to know everything in your first year and it is important to ask for support and use the expertise of your new colleagues.
As a mentor may have up to 5 NQTs at any one time it is important that you keep on top of your induction profile and make sure that it is easy to navigate and find the relevant evidence for each standard. This will enable your mentor to easily see where there are gaps and assist you in finding ways to fill them.
If you are completing your NQT sessions on supply remember that it is your responsibility to get the school that you are working in to sign the relevant paperwork after every day you work there. This will ensure that you do not lose any sessions and that you are not attempting to fill in paperwork retrospectively creating more work for both yourself and the schools.
Finally, making good use of your NQT time is key to a successful year, however, make sure you check with your mentor that what you are doing is correct and up to the required standard. It is better to find out exactly what your mentor wants early so that you do not have too many changes to make further down the line.
Good luck. You have chosen a very rewarding career, and although at times it may seem stressful and the workload great, remember that your mentors and colleagues are there for you and don’t be afraid to use them. We were all NQTs once!
My NQT Year – Holly Norcliffe
At the beginning of my NQT year I felt a little apprehensive about the workload ahead of me in addition to the general workload that goes with being a teacher. In my first few weeks I spent time getting to know members of staff in school and their knowledge and advice has been invaluable to me as an NQT, and is something that I will most definitely continue to seek in the future. These first few weeks were invaluable to me and I felt secure in starting my teaching career knowing that I had support from experienced teachers and senior leaders who were willing to help me wherever possible.
I met with my school-based mentor during the first week of term and we discussed the necessary steps I would have to take over the course of the year to be successful as an NQT. I was lucky in the fact that my 10% planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time and my 10% NQT time had been allocated to me on the same day each week, however, the most important thing is to use this time wisely. To do this I set myself mini-targets with regards to my NQT development and lesson-planning that I needed to complete by the end of the school day.
To begin with, I chose a selection of practising teacher standards (PTS) to update and collect evidence for in Section 3 (evidence of meeting standards). It is very important to note that this is a working document that you must update and change over the course of the whole academic year as to try and complete this at the end of the summer term would be difficult and evidence difficult to collect retrospectively. Bearing this in mind, I transferred the document onto Word to ensure that I had my own personal copy and to also avoid losing any hard work if you forget to save after the 30-minute window when updating the online version of Section 3. When I had completed evidence for the selection of PTS and referenced where the evidence could be found, I met with my school-based mentor to check that the way I had updated information and signposted my evidence was appropriate before continuing.
I decided that the most suitable form of evidence collation would be to keep an evidence file. I know other NQTs who kept a record of their evidence on a USB drive or have created a file and used a USB drive simultaneously, however I preferred to have as much evidence as possible in one place as a hard copy.
Preparing for and having lesson observations was just as nerve-wracking as it was when on teaching practice from university, however, the process was no different. Making sure that your lesson and resources are prepared in advance are still the key to success, and don’t forget to use the expertise of the colleagues around you to help you with ideas if you are struggling.
I spent a lot of time referencing and sorting the corresponding evidence I had. I also referenced evidence that I was unable to collate into my evidence file, such as individual education plans (IEPs) in my additional learning needs file, planning documents in my planning file, marked work in children’s books and wall displays, etc.
During each progress meeting with my school-based mentor we discussed appropriate developmental targets that were achievable within a term and enhanced my professional development. It was then my responsibility to achieve these targets by taking the necessary steps, for example, setting up meetings with various heads of learning, arranging lesson observations and visits to other schools and ensuring that I was signed up for appropriate courses. All of this could then be used to demonstrate how I had made progress to achieve my targets when reviewing them in the following progress meeting.
Keeping in regular contact with your external mentor is also essential in ensuring that you have a successful NQT year. By keeping your external mentor up to date with what you are doing and how you’re getting on with completing your PTS as well as meeting your developmental targets, they are in a better position to help you if you have any problems or worries.
The final half-term I spent time reading through my PTS – Section 3 to ensure that it made sense and that I had been successful in providing supporting statements and evidence for all of the standards. I also checked each PTS against my evidence file and other pieces of evidence to ensure that I had not left any evidence out.
A key piece of advice is to simply make the most of your allocated NQT time. Familiarise yourself with the PTS document straight away and discuss how you are going to collate supporting evidence with your school-based mentor. Begin to write supporting statements as soon as possible and keep doing so on a weekly basis during your NQT time. Leaving it until later is not an option if you want to be successful!
Make sure that you keep everything online up to date. When you have completed a progress meeting or a lesson observation, sign it off. After spending a couple of hours updating your PTS – Section 3 on your word document version, update your online Section 3 so that both your School-based mentor and external mentor are aware of the progress you are making.
Finally, don’t forget that within a school there are a lot of staff around to help you. Never be afraid to ask for help at an early stage if you need it, and remember that your external mentor is there to support you too if you need advice.
A headteacher's perspective - Mari Gaskell
When appointing an NQT, the headteacher and governing body of the school should be aware that you are entitled to an extra 10% NQT time on top of your PPA, essentially adding up to 1 day a week out of class for a full time teacher. When starting your post it is a good idea to check that this has been built into your timetable and to raise any concerns as soon as possible if it has not.
The NQT’s period of induction is managed by our school-based mentor. Holly has been ably supported by Ben Cox, whose classroom experience and knowledge of suitable professional development opportunities has been a considerable asset to the induction period. Unless issues have been raised with the external mentor there should be no need for headteachers or leadership team to be involved in the monitoring of the Section 3 or induction meetings other than to discuss and agree release for any CPD courses that the NQT wishes to attend in order to work towards their target areas.
Holly has had a very successful NQT Year and this is due in no small part to the commitment she has shown in taking advantage of the opportunities offered to her. By attending courses and accompanying pupils on school trips and an overnight residential visit, she has gained valuable experiences that have contributed greatly to the evidence against the PTS.
Developing positive, professional relationships with staff, pupils and parents is also important in this period and is another reason that this NQT Year was a successful one. Getting the balance right is very important in earning the respect of these groups and in keeping a high standard of pupil behaviour.
Finally, remember that your headteacher and SLT are there for you if you need them. Do not be afraid to ask for help.