Never Quite Enough Time

5th March 2010 at 00:00

During my NQT year I studied for a postgraduate certificate in teaching Shakespeare. It was tough. I was trying to find my feet as a teacher and balance the demands of the profession with planning my action-research project for the certificate.

It was only possible because of my wonderful head of department, who granted me an extra free period, and the strong support I had from colleagues and the education department at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Yet it was still so exhausting that I was ill during all my holidays, including the one when I was trying to write my final essay.

But there were many benefits: I acquired a greater knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. However, I was too young to fully appreciate what I acquired. And personally I was drained: it was my fifth consecutive year of studying and the friends I had graduated with who had not gone into teaching seemed to be having a lot more fun. I looked - and felt - five years older than I was.

So although I realise that the MTL is a new and different kind of qualification, I remain sceptical. To ask those who have just entered the profession to take on further study, on top of all the pressures they face, could repel rather than attract graduates. Yes, there will be NQTs who are eager to register for the MTL and they will reap the rewards, but there is a severe risk that the majority will crumble under the burden.

An NQT needs time. Lots of it. They need space and guidance. They don't just need a mentor - they need a department head who understands them and a school that makes them feel as though they are a wonderful investment.

However, I see the potential of the MTL as an incentive to remain in teaching. Heads could offer it to teachers once they have completed their third or fourth year. For those who have met the initial challenges in their first few years, the MTL might invoke that initial fire that led them to join the profession. NQTs, on the other hand, have that fire in their belly already - what they don't have is time.

Laura Roberts, Supply teacher, London.

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