First Step - The extra mile

11th December 2009 at 00:00
Professional development is not just for established teachers. Use your NQT year to boost your future career potential

We are fast approaching the end of the first term, and most newly qualified teachers now know what the rest of the induction year holds. You know the hurdles you must overcome and the evidence you must produce to show what you have learned.

However, induction should be viewed not just as a hoop to be jumped through, but as a foundation for future professional and personal development. It should offer a path for development that is targeted and personalised - a path that will fulfil the statutory requirements to become a teacher but will also help you through each step of your first year in the profession and beyond.

"The goal is to consolidate what you already know through interaction with your induction tutor so that outcomes are maximised in the classroom," says former induction tutor Alex Brandram, who has 15 years' experience working with NQTs. "Be proactive by developing your skills and understanding by drawing on examples of good practice in and around school."

According to the Training and Development Agency for Schools, continuing professional development (CPD) should consist of reflective activity designed to improve an individual's attributes, knowledge, understanding and skills. It supports individual needs and improves professional practice. But just because you're new to teaching doesn't mean you can't access CPD in the same way your more experienced colleagues would.

"CPD activities are effective if they are appropriate to the participant's needs, stimulate reflection and help the NQT to try new ways of working if appropriate," says John Tandy, induction and CPD consultant to the teaching resource Teachers TV. "The induction tutor supports this process and helps with the evaluation of the impact of the development."

According to Mr Tandy, there are many possible sources of CPD, including activities that are part of induction, such as planning collaboratively with tutors and organising lesson observations using pre-agreed criteria.

Mary Walton, who completed her NQT year at a secondary in Manchester in 2006, says her colleagues were the best CPD resource. "Discuss what works for them, and share your ideas and feelings," she advises. "Have a chat with your line manager and ask if you could observe a colleague or team-teach, which could help spark ideas about how to develop your own practice. Meetings with colleagues are opportunities to enhance professional learning. I found it stimulating to look at other teachers' classrooms and learning environments."

Mr Tandy also suggests accessing available resources, such as the material on Teachers TV and The TES's free web resources, as well as personal research and reading. Taking time to evaluate and reflect on your work privately can help clarify issues you may have and help support your professional development.

It is also worth trying collaborative or peer coaching. If things are not going well, it is often helpful to talk about it and to be supported in finding a way forward. "Developing collaborative strategies for teaching can be useful," says Mr Tandy. "Particularly for pupils with special educational needs, pupils with English as an additional language and more able pupils."

And make sure your CPD work is properly accredited. Universities and higher education institutions work with teachers to certify professional learning, making you eligible to build up Credit Accumulation Transfer points that count towards a masters degree.

Other important CPD activities include reading pupils' previous records and reports, analysing marking and record-keeping systems in order to improve personal practice, and shadowing meetings with outside agents, such as social workers, speech therapists and educational psychologists. You can also reflect on your progress against the core standards by using your career entry and development profile.

The key principle is to ensure that your development needs are addressed through a personalised programme of CPD and support. "One size does not fit all," says Mr Tandy. "The CPD should relate to needs, but there should also be links with the core standards that underpin induction and the assessment process."

You may not feel like you have the energy, but anything that can ease the transition from NQT to teacher is a worthwhile cause.


- View your induction as a foundation for future professional and personal development rather than a hurdle.

- Be proactive by developing your skills and understanding.

- Ensure your CPD relates to your own individual needs.

- Link any CPD with core standards that underpin the induction and assessment process.

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