Five ways to help your NQTs thrive

Two leaders give their advice on supporting new teachers and combating the recruitment crisis in the process.

Sometimes it can feel as if we’re in an episode of Dad’s Army: “There’s a recruitment crisis on, don’t you know?”

Of course teachers realise there is a recruitment crisis. We all know there is a recruitment crisis. Now what are we going to do about it?

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One thing all schools can do to help recruitment is to make sure they are looking after the staff they’ve got – and one group that really needs support is newly qualified teachers (NQTs). NQTs have a doubly hard job: a new school and a new profession. So, their induction needs to cover both of those bases effectively. Here’s how to get it right:

Scaffold the support from the start

Joanne Gill, assistant head of teaching and learning and ITT coordinator at Churchill Academy in Somerset, has structured the school NQT induction plan to ensure they have a range of different places to go for support.

“Every NQT has an induction tutor within their faculty,” she explains. “This person is their go-to for questions and advice. Then they have a different NQT mentor and they are also assigned an induction mentor outside of their faculty as a friendly face around school.”

By using multiple members of staff, Gill is able to put a higher level of support in place if a problem arises.

“If an NQT was struggling early on in the term, we could ask their induction mentor to take them for a coffee and have a chat about strategies to get a better work-life balance. Sometimes you need to talk to someone outside your department who has a level of detachment and can give you objective advice.”

Prepare a Swiss army knife-style welcome pack

Rather than making your welcome pack a tick-box activity, create a document that prepares your NQTs for anything, advises Claire Hill, head of English and media studies at Dover Grammar School for Girls, in Kent.

“Our welcome pack contains every piece of key information; everything from staff roles and responsibilities to where to keep your mug,” she explains.

But a welcome pack on its own won’t cut it. Hill doubles this up with partnered meetings spread throughout the year.

“In our weekly NQT meetings, we address the key information from the pack and then go into more detail,” says Hill. And these meetings act as a getting-to-know-you opportunity.

“Each meeting is led by a different staff member who can then talk about their role; this way, NQTs can put faces to the names they need to know.”

Remind teachers that we’re always students

Just like the children in our lessons, teachers are always learning. And for NQTs, this is the year where you really begin to hone your craft. Hill gives her NQTs a nudge in the right direction by providing books for each new teacher.

“Our aim is to support teachers to engage with reading, so we buy every NQT a continuing professional development book based on recommendations from their subject leader,” explains Hill. “For September this year, our geography NQT has been bought Mark Enser’s Making Every Geography Lesson Count and our maths NQT has been given How I Wish I’d Taught Maths, by Craig Barton. It’s a way of showing our NQTs that we invest in our staff and value their professional development.”

Value and grow your mentors

The importance of mentor training cannot be overlooked. If a mentor is unprepared for how to guide their NQT, you’ll only create unhappy trainees.

“Our mentors are incredibly important, and we really value their professionalism and expertise,” explains Gill.

“In preparation for them taking on their mentees, we meet with them separately to run through the requirements of the course. I think being a mentor is a really wonderful experience and it is very rewarding to watch a teacher grow under your supervision.”

This is something Hill has found to be true in her school, too. “We often have the same people volunteering to be mentors again, year after year. It’s fantastic to have that kind of level of expertise.

“It’s also very special to watch NQTs who have stayed with you then go on to become mentors themselves; I think this is a sign that, as a school, you’re doing something right.”

Help your NQTs find their work ‘family’

A work-based social life can be crucial in making NQTs feel like they’re part of a school “family”, building loyalty and belonging. For Hill, this is encouraged by creating a culture where staff can socialise together regularly, across different departments and faculties.

“We have the ‘library’ which is code for the pub around the corner,” Hill explains. “Everyone is invited there every Friday for a casual drink.”

“On the last day of every term, the school pays for a buffet, and at Christmas there is a little sing-along session for everyone to let off steam by belting out Christmas hits accompanied by our RE teacher on the pub’s piano,” Hill says.

However, socialising doesn’t have to always centre on the pub. For Gill, some of their more popular social events don’t involve any alcohol at all. “Our NQTs are all invited to join our Friday football team, and we also have a senior choir, which is really popular with staff.”