The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Alex Masters

NQT inductions are more critical than ever

Reasons for NQTs quitting the teaching profession may be varied but, with the right structures in place, we can turn this around.

The statistics are pretty depressing. Almost four out of ten teachers quit within a year of qualifying according to analysis of government figures.

The reasons will be varied but, chances are, the main factors will be stress, overwork, and insecurity.

The first term (indeed year) is hugely challenging. When I embarked on my NQT year, teachers often used to smile and assure me that ‘this year is the toughest of your teaching career’. I guess it was meant to reassure me but it just terrified me.

I kept in touch with friends and fellow trainees who were embarking on their first foray into teaching. Some found the experience a delight: they were supported every step of the way and felt valued. Others, however, did not have such a smooth journey.

‘Don’t pester us’

One friend related the instance of her head of department saying: ‘Ellie, it’s so great that you just get on with it and never ask questions.’ Ellie translated this as: ‘Don’t pester us. If you do we’ll just see it as a negative.’ From that day on she was reluctant to ask questions and, no surprise here, she made a raft of mistakes because everything became a guessing game.

Consistency

Rob, an NQT maths teacher, told me there was no structure with his lesson observations. Worse still, his mentor kept changing. ‘I felt like I was a burden and people were just passing me around,’ he said. Consequently, he never got the change to connect with any one mentor and develop a rapport or sense of trust. ‘Some mentors were really supportive, but others were just critical and knocked my confidence. I didn’t know who I was going to get from one week to the next. Lesson observations became really stressful.’

Conversation

Another fellow NQT, Luke, said one of his biggest despairs was the fact the staff room was always empty. ‘There were so many times I just wanted to talk to someone, either to have a grumble or just chat about the football… anything. But there was never anyone around!’ He began to feel very lonely.

Support

If there’s one thing NQTs need more than anything it’s support. ‘I used to have days of pure hell where I didn’t think I could go on,’ said Jonathan. ‘The kids could be really challenging.’ However, he had a real network of support in the school. ‘My department were amazing and so supportive! I suddenly realised I wasn’t alone and that made it so much easier to deal with. And we always went to the pub on Fridays which was great stress relief!’

Clarity

NQTs also want absolute clarity on general rules such as sanctions and rewards systems, registration procedures, first aid and assessment tracking. Personally, I never felt fully clear about my school’s sanctions and rewards system, and teachers kept telling me they had different theories and methods which totally confused me. This made me feel alienated and, no surprise, the inconsistency confused the pupils. The result? Disorderly lessons (with children often saying ‘Mr So and So never did that…’) and higher stress levels for me.

Induction checklist

A key way to make an NQT feel supported is to offer structure, consistency and a real sense of continuous development. According to the experts, this should include:

  • regular meetings to discuss individual strengths and weaknesses
  • a timetable of observations
  • reviews and assessment meetings
  • a personal development plan (with clear objectives and success measures)
  • professional reflection and review meetings (ideally every six weeks).

A critical point here is to have all key areas of induction covered: it only takes one omission for a new member of staff to potentially feel unsure – or worse, disenchanted. Download the induction checklist to ensure you have all areas covered.

Ultimately, NQTs need to be in a safe, nurturing environment where they feel confident to enough to take risks in the full knowledge that they can reach their full potential. This will create confident and resilient teachers who can make a real impact on your school and pupils. And, hopefully, this will deter them from planning a swift exit at the end of the year. 

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