Imagine starting out on your professional career and the world changing all around you.
Starting out on a journey and the map, trodden by many before you, is erased and redrawn over and over again before your eyes.
Gathering new subject knowledge, developing classroom practice, adopting policies and procedures only for them to change in the blink of an eye and replaced with temporary guidance and cautious new messaging.
Let us agree now, our newly qualified members of staff have had one hell of a year. Think back to March 2020, the possible second term of teaching practice and placement settings, and you’re greeted with the immediate closure of schools.
To then return in the new academic year, having secured a post by virtual interview and observation of remote teaching, only to be curtailed once more by the January lockdown.
Thrust into a world of online teaching, presenting live and recorded lessons while striving to develop sustainable and engaging relationships with pupils through the medium of various digital platforms.
New teachers in Covid-19
It’s hard to appreciate the challenge with no comparison in our own respective journey into teaching.
Looking back to my GTP year, in what seems like the dim and distant past, the only element that was somewhat problematic was the abundance of plastic wallets I needed to fill with endless amounts of evidence in order to secure a solid judgment against the teaching standards.
I probably would have crumbled when faced with the challenges of the last 18 months in the first weeks and months of my career.
Of course, this September sees the launch of the Early Career Framework and, quite rightly, we should be ensuring the first years in teaching are grounded in evidence-based learning and allow new teachers support beyond the whirlwind of year one.
That said, our responsibilities as leaders should extend beyond the framework to ensure we support new staff the best we possibly can. The framework is one element in a wider strategy for retaining and supporting staff, we decide the others.
Instinctively, we want to make sure that all staff are supported in their role and, next year, with the possible steps towards an education that we may have known pre-pandemic, it would be easy to put in place the policies and procedures that we had become accustomed to before March 2020.
However, this was the life before Covid-19 and, quite possibly, an educational world not previously experienced by a large amount of our newly qualified staff.
When you have managed to craft your practice in a classroom of rows, learnt to develop your professional relationships with pupils at arm’s length, communicated with parents via screens and telephones rather than face to face and the only staff meeting you have attended was on zoom, the challenge of reintegration and relearning the school that you have grown to know will be a terrific task for those that know no different.
Supporting NQTs this year
As we embark on preparations for the new academic year, let us remember that the world we are to return to represents yet another set of changes for some of our staff. Let us ensure that we take the time not to assume prior knowledge and experience of historic ways of working and traditional modus operandi.
Let us ensure that the culture of support is not left solely at the feet of the mentors who have been allocated to support our newest teachers. Let’s ensure a collective culture and, as leaders, disseminate that message to all.
From parent’s evenings to whole school assemblies, from more children in the dining hall to repositioning classrooms to groups of tables away from the regimented agenda of rows and social distancing.
From face masks to the freedom of normality, whatever route your school chooses to take, should the guidance allow it, ensure you keep in mind those members of staff who this will be, yet another, new experience of education and yet another map to follow.
Dan Edwards is principal of Woodstock Primary Academy, Leicester.