How to cope with the move from trainee teacher to NQT

Making the transition from trainee to NQT shouldn’t be cause for concern, but there are a few things to bear in mind when the stabilisers come off. Here are some things to look out for in your first few weeks

NQTs and teacher training: Are Covid-era trainee teachers screwed? Far from it, says Adam Riches

Becoming an NQT and dropping the “trainee” label can feel marvellous. You’ve completed your training and are ready to be a “real” teacher now. What do you need to be aware of to make the most of your first year in teaching?


While you thought a never-ending stream of training assesments and tasks were tough, managing a wealth of new things on your to-do list in the classroom can feel overwhelming. You will find yourself being asked for data, to attend meetings and produce reports – all on top of your preparation and actual teaching. Autumn term is notorious for being one of the hardest and busiest, but you should try to get into positive routines that will help you to manage.  

You are surrounded by more experienced professionals – ask them how they manage their time, pick up their “hacks” and tailor them for yourself. Have honest conversations with your mentor and avoid falling into the trap of telling someone you are managing when you are not. You are new to this and will still need support.

Performance pressure

As an NQT, it’s completely normal to feel pressure. You are the only person “in charge” of your class, so it can feel like a huge weight on your shoulders. Suddenly, you are the person who needs to help this entire class meet their plethora of targets. 

First, remember that you are part of a school team. There are colleagues who can help you. Again, never be afraid to ask questions; everyone has asked them once. Talk to your mentor and have a clear idea of what is expected of you.

Second, lessons will (and should) go wrong. Be aware that you will never get everything perfect. You are still finding your feet, so don’t beat yourself up when you have to teach something a couple of times to get it right. The same goes for observations. See them as an opportunity to hone your practice.

Parents and carers

While you may have had minimal contact with parents and carers as a trainee, you are now on the front line and will be expected to deal with queries and concerns. Holding a “get to know you” event can be helpful – a short meeting where you introduce yourself and your aims for the year. 

Although this might sound like a terrifying prospect, it can help to build strong relationships. Managing requests for meetings is also a learning curve as an NQT. Some parents or carers will want to see you for a variety of reasons. Rather than offering to see someone immediately, offer an appointment later in the week – it will help you gather your thoughts or seek any advice on the issue they have.

Learn to say ‘no’

As an NQT, you may be viewed as the enthusiastic newbie ready to take anything on. As excited as you are about your new career, learning to say “no” will stand you in good stead for many years to come. You may find yourself with multiple requests for extra responsibilities – extracurricular clubs, displays, school events. Learn to be flexible in your approach; take on what you can but have positive strategies for politely declining.

You will experience pockets of wobbles and worries throughout your NQT year. The most vital thing to remember is to take the time to enjoy your new profession and the first class you will remember forever.

Sarah Wright is senior lecturer of primary education at Edge Hill University. She tweets @Sarah__wright1