“By the end of your first full week of teaching, you may feel really, really tired – physically and mentally,” says English teacher of 10 years Julia Toppin, who is sharing tips for newly qualified teacher survival on Twitter under the hashtag #NQThealth.
Toppin, who says she herself had a difficult time as an NQT and changed schools after her very first term, says: “Your mind and body has to adjust to the rigour of a full-teaching timetable. You will have new systems, too many names to learn, and can feel overwhelmed."
Describing the Autumn term as the "NQT Slayer", she says it’s good for NQTs to feel that they’re not alone.
Exclusive: Mental health ‘crisis’ for trainee teachers
“This is where lunching in the staffroom helps. You might not want to tell your mentor or head of department about everything, but you can talk to other NQTs, teachers or teaching assistants and get a wider perspective.”
Her tips for NQTs include:
1. Always take your breaks.
2. Always have lunch in the staffroom.
3. Do no more than three extra work hours per day – an hour before school and two hours after.
4. Always go to bed when you are tired, even if it is only 8.30pm.
5. Eat well.
7. Take a multi-vitamin.
8. Learn to meditate.
9. Set aside the night before the lightest day on your timetable for social activities – plan and do fun things.
10. Try to only work one day on alternate weekends.
The latest Department for Eduation figures show that one in seven NQTs who qualified in 2017 had dropped out of state schools a year later, costing taxpayers around £90 million.
Suzanne Beckley, policy specialist at the NEU teaching union, praised the DfE's early years framework, which is extending support for NQTs into their second year.
But she said there needed to be a change in culture so that schools support their NQTs more.
She said: “Talking in the staffroom is important – you need the camaraderie and to know that everyone else is experiencing hard times.
“It’s up to management to identify staff who might make good mentors for NQTs. Being a mentor is a skill in itself. It’s not just enough that someone’s been a teacher for a few years.”
How to save a teacher
In the 20 September issue of Tes magazine, there is an in-depth look at the international research around why many teachers leave the profession within the first five years. Written by teacher Jamie Thom, the article identifies three areas that schools have to get right if we are to stop huge numbers of new recruits leaving. You can subscribe to Tes magazine here.