Why schools’ top brass should trumpet NQT support

7th September 2018 at 00:00
Leaders need to adopt an evidence-based approach to ensure new teachers make the best possible start to their careers in the classroom, argues Michael Green

Almost every school will have at least one NQT starting this September, so as a leader how much thought have you given to your role in not just making this year the best it can be for them, but also in ensuring that these teachers stay in the profession?

Because leaders do have a crucial role to play. More than a quarter of teachers now leave teaching within three years of qualifying, according to statistics from the Department for Education. Excessive workload is constantly cited as one of the key factors in this decision, and that is something school leaders should be able to control.

Research in Australia has highlighted a number of areas where new teachers require further support, including getting to grips with the school context and procedures, developing networks within and beyond the school, overseeing other professionals such as teaching assistants, developing strategies to manage priorities and competing demands and managing their own (and others’) expectations. Again, these are things a school leader should have a role in sorting.

Another thing on their radar should be high-quality training for mentors. Mentors need to have the capacity and time to model practices, provide effective feedback and devise development frameworks that build on their prior experiences, knowledge and skills. This was echoed in the responses to the DfE’s recent consultation on strengthening QTS, which highlighted the need for mentors to have access to high-quality training to support them in this critical role.

And finally, a 2016 study from the Education Policy Institute found that teachers who felt better prepared to teach were less likely to feel that their workloads were unmanageable. It is vital, therefore, that NQTs have access to high-quality CPD – another job that should come under the influence of the headteacher.

In short, you can’t just expect others to do what they are supposed to do in supporting NQTs. Leaders need to push from the top to ensure the things that research suggests matter are in place.

There is also a general attitude towards NQTs that needs to come from the head’s office. These teachers are still developing. We have to move beyond the unrealistic and unsustainable notion that NQTs should hit the ground running.

Putting all this into action can be tricky, but vital. The following themes and questions should help.

1. Consider the workload that’s associated with monitoring, support, induction and appraisals

How do you ensure that any monitoring and support as part of the new teacher’s induction and appraisal process is not overly bureaucratic, or focused on the collection of evidence rather than on the development of the teacher?

Have you considered the workload implications of the induction and appraisal process on the mentor as well as the mentee?

2. Help guide NQTs to manage their expectations

How do you support your teachers to know their limits and not overcommit, both in terms of teaching commitments and extracurricular responsibilities?

How do you manage NQTs’ expectations of themselves and their teaching? And how is this communicated so there is a shared understanding?

3. Provide support and professional development opportunities for NQTs

How do you ensure that mentors and induction tutors have the time, capacity, expertise, knowledge, experience and personal qualities required to provide support?

How are you building on your NQTs’ ‘initial’ training with further professional development opportunities?

4. Review your current support structures

How do you provide opportunities for teachers – especially NQTs – to tell you what would help them in relation to their workload and wellbeing?

How do you ensure that the support structures that you put in place for NQTs are sustainable and do not place additional strain on other colleagues?

How do you help teachers to collaborate, both within and across schools? What networks are available to them?

5. Support transition points

How do you support NQTs who are making the transition from trainee to qualified teacher, particularly in regard to the potential increase in workload?

What support do you put in place for teachers in the early stages of their career who may have taken on additional responsibilities or have expressed an interest in doing so?

Michael Green is head of strategic partnerships education at the University of Greenwich. He has also been seconded to the Department for Education as an adviser on teacher workload in ITE. He tweets @Michael_s_Green

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