'Calm down, Kevin. That's my daughter you're teaching'

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
Frances Curless, deputy head at Holy Family Roman Catholic primary school in Cronton, near Widnes, has been a mentor for four years. Last year she looked after Kevin Quigley, a newly qualified teacher

When NQTs come in I have an initial meeting to look at their career-entry profile and discuss their targets.

We set out a schedule for regular meetings, but in a small school you see so much of each other anyway. As well as the official meetings there are also lots in between, just popping into the classroom to make sure things are OK.

If you're going to mentor effectively it has to be informal. My being deputy head might initially make people feel they can't come and ask questions. Hopefully we get over that quickly and reach the point where the NQT knows we're not perfect, that we're learning all the time.

Kevin is very lively and enthusiastic. I said to him at the beginning that he may have to calm down because he may not be able to keep that pace throughout the year. But he did manage to maintain that enthusiasm. My youngest daughter is in his class and she absolutely loved being with him.

We try to keep lesson observation to a minimum. There's one every half term, which would be six lessons looking initially at the core subjects: maths, English and science, and then moving over to other areas.

With Kevin I don't think I did six full observations. It was probably three, after that it was just parts of lessons, popping in quite regularly.

I'd just be there to support.

As a mentor you do get a lot out of it when you have a successful teacher coming through, and you see things falling into place and someone still enjoying the job.

Kevin Quigley, aged 22

I was the only NQT and the only male in a small, one-form entry school. But the staff were very friendly. And Frances was really helpful. As well as official lesson observations, I asked her to come in a few times just to spend time with the children and then give me a bit of advice.

And that's what I liked about the mentoring really - you could always go and ask for assistance. Despite being deputy head with so many responsibilities, she always managed to make time.

When I went on an LEA course, for example on assessment or special educational needs we'd sit down afterwards and I'd report back. It was all very informal.

Parents evening was all new to me. We just sat down beforehand and discussed the right things to say. She is also ICT co-ordinator so she gave me a lot of support there. I had an interactive whiteboard in my classroom and I hadn't been very well prepared in my training.

It was great to have someone there because you don't know whether you're doing the right or wrong thing. It's nice to speak to someone more experienced.

Now I want to become a mentor. I think it's really important - it settled me down really well.

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