First step - Time on your side

2nd October 2009 at 01:00
The 10 per cent reduction in contact time is a boon for NQTs, but it pays to use it constructively

Are you making the best use of your non-contact time? New teachers are entitled to a 10 per cent reduction in timetable - or half a day a week - in their first year in addition to the standard 10 per cent planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time allocated to all teachers.

How you organise that time can be difficult initially but, says Rebecca Sowden, who completed her NQT year in 2008 and now teaches a reception class in Newcastle upon Tyne: "It becomes much easier as you become familiar with the routines of your school."

She advises prioritising tasks depending upon the level of concentration or support you will need. "If you concentrate better in the morning then do these tasks first," she says. "Save repetitive tasks such as mounting, cutting out and so on for times when you feel less perky."

Writing down the tasks that need to be done can be helpful. "Have a list of jobs you expect to get done. Always rank the items on the list according to importance and tick them off as you do them," she says. "You'll feel a sense of accomplishment when you have completed the list."

Make sure you plan properly. "It is important to use PPA time to check that resources are available," says Mrs Sowden. "I learnt from my mistake when I painstakingly planned a detailed lesson using the class set of digital cameras only to find out, just before the lesson, that they were already booked for someone else."

Marking, planning and discussing targets for individual pupils takes up a lot of time for any teacher, but NQTs should also be observing other lessons, getting feedback on their own lessons from their induction tutor and evaluating their development.

"If you can, use PPA time to observe other members of staff teaching, particularly if they are in the same year group as you," says Anna Carlile, lecturer in inclusive education at Goldsmiths College, London. "Don't forget to check with them whether they are happy for you to do so."

She also advises new teachers to work in co-operation with colleagues to ensure they are using their time efficiently. "PPA time can be shared with other teachers from the same or a different department to maximise the time, as tasks can be shared," she says.

Joanna Deeks, who has recently finished her NQT year teaching classics at Portsmouth Grammar School, found that having a tutor group ate into her PPA time. "I ended up working 10 to 12-hour days and lost more than half a stone. The sooner you develop a good strategy, the better."

Some NQTs have problems getting their allocated time. Management may be unaware of problems, particularly in a large school. It may just be a question of drawing their attention to the problem, so new teachers must first try to deal with it in-house. If it continues, it is advisable to get in contact with the induction representative at your local education authority.

It is important to insist on your allocated PPA time. Miss Carlile doubts whether NQTs can complete the induction without it. "New teachers should use a calendar to plan out tasks that need to be completed across the year to ensure a work-life balance is maintained," she says. "This is crucial to a new teacher's development."


- The 10 per cent guaranteed PPA time is a minimum figure, and if you receive more, you may be protected against having it reduced.

- PPA time is part of your "directed" time at school so you may need to stay on the school premises. Understanding heads may agree to reasonable requests to carry out PPA work outside school if appropriate.

- Teachers receiving PPA should not be burdened with other work during that time, nor should they be expected to deal with immediate discipline problems.

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