Career clinic

23rd September 2011 at 01:00
This week, headteacher Teresa Tunnadine advises on NQT ambitions and the right time to seek pastures new

Hungry for success

I have just completed my PGCE as an English teacher and am about to embark on my NQT year. I want to progress in the school management system eventually, but I want to hone my classroom teaching skills first. How do I show my school my eagerness to be successful in the coming year so that I stand in good stead to progress in further years, without overburdening my workload this year?

English teacher, London

As an NQT, you are going to have a lot on your plate. The year ahead is about consolidating all you have learnt during your training, and your focus should be on doing the best "professional job" you can.

This means you are going to be busy planning and delivering varied, imaginative lessons that cater for the range of abilities, ages and interests of the children you teach. You will also be keeping on top of assessment and pupil progress, and building constructive relationships with your charges, at the same time as making sure classroom behaviour is respectful and allows learning to take place.

What will also be crucial to your success will be developing the skills of being an effective tutor (or co-tutor) and building positive professional relationships with staff. If you are ambitious, this may sound straightforward - but it isn't. It will inevitably mean a lot of hard work and you will, at times, feel overburdened performing the basics.

If you carry out all of these things consistently well and present yourself as organised, calm, positive and upbeat, you will shine through as an exemplary professional with lots of potential.

Only when you feel you can do all of this with relative ease are you really ready for more responsibility, and then you can begin putting out feelers. So don't be over-ambitious - if you rush into this and take on too much too soon you may regret it.

Ready to move on

It may be early in the year, but I am fairly confident that I want to move on from the school I teach in to pastures new. When is the best time to look for a job? And when is the best time to change schools without leaving colleagues in the lurch, but still ensuring that I move on in sufficient time to engage in the life of my new school?

RE teacher, Birmingham

This is such a useful question, and one many schools address directly with their staff. In an ideal world, staff give schools plenty of time to replace them. However, in practice this doesn't always work out as neatly. In teaching there are only three standard final resignation dates in the year: the last days of October, February and May for teachers other than the headteacher who want to leave at the end of each term.

Staff resigning at the last minute give their school little opportunity to replace them, as the process of appointing staff can take at least four weeks. This means schools may have to fill a vacant post with a temporary teacher until they can appoint during the following term. This is often (though not always) a less than ideal experience for the pupils and the school.

I suggest you talk to your headteacher as early as possible about what you are thinking of doing and when. Out of courtesy, have this conversation with your headteacher before talking to any other colleagues in the school. Your head will be very useful in talking things through with you and offering advice. At this meeting you can also formally request that they are a referee for you - again following normal protocols.

For you, moving schools at the end of the academic year is probably the best idea, as schools have formal induction arrangements for new staff starting in September, which makes transition easier. You are also likely to start your new school with other new staff, which provides you with a useful network of colleagues in the same position.

Many teaching vacancies begin to appear in the spring term each year, before half-term for most senior and middle-leadership posts and from March onwards for mainscale posts. Avoid resigning in late May, if possible, to minimise the impact on your current school.

You have to be prepared to move when the right opportunity comes up. And the only person who will prioritise your interests is you.

Teresa Tunnadine is head of Compton School in Finchley, London, and a National Leader of Education

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Information provided is general guidance and not legal advice. Only printed questions will be answered.

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