The reality of work in schools can lead to “practice shock” for new teachers, a study shows.
The exploratory research, published by the Department for Education, reveals that a supportive school culture is “critical to the success” of teachers in their second and third years of teaching.
Some teachers even told researchers that “the most valuable” support in lessening the shock of moving from their induction year to their second year came from the informal support they received from colleagues rather than more formal arrangements.
During the first year of teaching, also known as an induction year, newly qualified teachers have fewer teaching hours and formal support from the school. This means that the second year of teaching – when they are expected to take on a full timetable with no mentoring – can come as a shock.
There has been growing concern about the number of teachers leaving the profession early in their careers, with nearly a third leaving within five years.
The DfE has already announced plans to extend the induction period from one to two years, to ensure that new teachers have more support at the beginning of their careers.
How to support new teachers
And today’s study, carried out by researchers at the National Foundation for Educational Research, looked for evidence of the best ways to support teachers in their first three years of teaching. It concluded that what worked well, was:
- Having a balanced package of support, with a standardised training programme alongside more personalised opportunities;
- A supportive whole-school culture where induction was viewed as the start of training and support;
- Having a range of support available, including informal support.
The report states: “Positive views of induction were associated with a number of common enabling factors, identified across our sample of case-study schools.
"These included having a range of support options available – rather than focusing on the role of a single mentor, schools with the more successful induction arrangements appeared to offer NQTs multiple points of support such as through peer-to-peer arrangements and networking opportunities.
"Indeed, in some cases, it was the informal support that NQTs received that was perceived to be the most valuable."
The study looked into previous research and involved interviews with teachers in 20 schools that had higher than average rates of retention of early career teachers.
Asked what their main development needs were at the start of the induction year, most teachers mentioned behaviour management, use of assessment, pedagogical knowledge and supporting pupils with SEND.
There was also some demand for understanding safeguarding and "basic things" such as fire drills, taking the register and managing workload.
But after their NQT year, most teachers in their second to fifth year of teaching wanted training that would help them to progress into middle leadership roles, including opportunities to broaden their skill set.
But while some had been given opportunities to pursue further training, the researchers warned that these alone would not ensure job satisfaction, but had to be accompanied by genuine opportunities to take on new roles and responsibilities.
The study also found that what worked less well for teachers in the early stages of their careers was: formal continuing professional development, which could involve being “presented at” or did not give time for any learning to be followed up; being signposted to online forums; and training at locations or times that presented logistical challenges.