Beginning a career in teaching can be a daunting prospect for an NQT. Schools, MATs and leadership teams therefore have a significant responsibility to ensure their induction programmes are both comprehensive and supportive.
With almost a third of NQTs leaving the profession within five years of completing their training, it’s fair to say that a vacuum is being created in the education sector – one which has resulted in a recruitment crisis.
While the government can put measures in place to try and prevent the situation from worsening, there are actions and support systems that middle leaders within schools can implement to help ensure that NQTs are able to thrive and pursue long-lasting and fulfilling careers in education.
Link development to pupil outcomes
Professional development for NQTs should always have a clear purpose and be linked to pupil outcomes. Teachers enter the profession because they want to make a difference. To that end, it’s important that NQTs can identify the needs of individual pupils, and that they feel their professional learning is both relevant and pertinent to the specific pupils they teach.
Middle leaders should use aggregated student data to inform their decisions over where the focus for NQTs’ professional development should be.
Another way of facilitating this within departments could be to bring student’ work or data to meetings and explore it together, thus opening up a rich dialogue and providing opportunities to reflect on shared teacher impact.
Organise regular support meetings
The power of talking should never be overestimated; regular meetings will help ensure that your NQTs always feel supported. As well as carrying out formal reviews, try to also build in more regular discussions about how things are going, the progress being made by the pupils of the NQTs you line manage, and any other forms of holistic support they might might need. CPD should always be sustained over time, rather than be seen as an occasional ‘add-on’.
Carry out regular and varied observations
It’s good practice to observe NQTs at least once per half term to ensure they’re making satisfactory progress towards the Teachers’ Standards necessary for them to pass their NQT year.
Lesson observations should be unannounced, and ought to vary with regards to the day of the week and specific time. If possible, try to observe NQTs once a month, and bear in mind that the main purpose of the exercise is not to simply judge the NQT, but rather to inform the mentoring process. In short, evaluate less, develop more.
A fundamental driver of NQT development stems from the attitude and actions that are demonstrated by the school’s senior leaders. The most effective schools will view professional development as a key leadership priority, and have in place a CPD programme that balances clear alignment to the school development plan with the needs of individual members of staff.
Allocate your time wisely
Ensure that your school makes sensible use of INSET days, disaggregating these to twilight sessions where required, while also setting aside additional time for development. How this time is used is crucial. Successful schools will foster a carefully structured culture of collaboration, in which groups of teachers (and often other staff too) will work together to improve those student outcomes that are important to them.
Use positive reinforcement
Give praise where praise is due. A teacher who feels good at their job will have a strong sense of self-efficacy, which means they’re more likely to be motivated and successful in meeting attainment targets. They’ll also be more resilient and able to demonstrate flexibility when faced with change. Above all, they’ll be better able to develop the confidence and ability to choose which approach in the classroom will best meet the needs of their learners.
Empower middle leaders
Middle leaders could be described as a school’s engine room. Particularly in a large school, their’s is a real lynchpin role within a large school. In learning environments where middle leaders are granted the freedom and resources to proactively support and develop their NQTs, we can see real transformation and impact for both NQTs and pupils.
How to set clear objectives
Effective objective setting isn’t an end in itself; it should form part of an overall professional development process that includes review, planning and action.
Appropriate objectives provide a basis for reviewing an NQT’s progress. These enable the NQT and induction tutor to identify those aspects of the induction programme that are effectively supporting development, and any areas in which improvements may need to be made. These objectives must be:
- Challenging and realistic
- Precise and focused
- Framed in a way that leads to clear statements about achievement
- Limited in number and balanced against other professional demands
- Set within clear time frames
- Linked to a programme of monitoring
Tim Nelson is a former headteacher with over 25 years’ experience in primary education, and has previously worked as a local leader of education, an Ofsted inspector and mentor for trainee inspectors. He is currently a full-time consultant for Focus Education.