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Is workload getting in the way of NQT support?

Mentors provide crucial help to new teachers, but the role can become a workload ‘burden’ says one academic

Workload, NQTs, mentors, mentoring, workplace, trainee teachers

Mentors provide crucial help to new teachers, but the role can become a workload ‘burden’ says one academic

Mentoring trainee or newly qualified teachers is a “Cinderella” activity in schools: essential work that often goes unrecognised. That’s according to Rachel Lofthouse, professor of teacher education at Leeds Beckett University.

“When we are talking about mentoring of student teachers or newly qualified teachers, it’s often something that is unrewarded; it’s something that is expected to be done,” Lofthouse says.

“It’s often something that is undertaken by individuals who’ve got a commitment to it, but not necessarily people who are allocated sufficient time. So there’s always some tension in the work of mentors.”

However, effective mentoring is essential to ensure that new teachers are properly supported and that they are engaged with the profession, Lofthouse explains, speaking on the latest episode of the Tes Podagogy podcast.

And for mentoring to be effective, it requires that mentors be given the time and recognition they need to do the job successfully.

“The mentors are committed individuals, they are passionate about their work, but quite often they are layering that work into their day job and it becomes quite a difficulty, I think, for some of them to do it really well,” Lofthouse says.

She adds that, as mentoring is an activity that generally happens one-on-one and “behind closed doors”, its value is often overlooked. Yet, “paying attention to it at policy level matters”.

“Acknowledging the wider value that really good professional conversations – as are possible through coaching and mentoring – can add to an individual’s life experience at work, makes a big difference,” she says.

Lofthouse discusses some of the qualities that make a good mentor in the podcast and also describes what can be done to raise the status of mentoring in schools – something she says is critical at a time when unmanageable workload is causing many teachers to leave the profession.

“A lot of people are very enthusiastic to be mentors. One of the issues becomes when being a mentor becomes a paper chase or becomes a bureaucratic burden because of all the components that are layered on, or when being a mentor is something which actually tips them out of the coping space, where actually it’s yet another burden on their workload,” she says.

You can listen for free by downloading the podcast from iTunes or listening below.

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