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

Katie Renton

Great teaching, great learning: supporting new teachers to develop their craft

The first years of teaching are a time where the foundation should be laid for developing into a confident and inspiring classroom practitioner. However, under the weight of new responsibilities and learning experiences, time for CPD can be difficult to come by.

'Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.' – A.P.J Abdul Kalam

Every teacher must have a different idea of what they most want to achieve in their role as an educator. To be an inspiration to their pupils, to achieve the best results, to encourage pupils to join their passion of their subject… all of these and many more could be the original trigger for our classroom teachers that propels them into their teaching career. In fact, an Association of Teachers and Learners survey found that almost 75% of those asked considered making a difference as a teacher to be the most important aspect to them.

However, all of these goals are part of a much larger responsibility that our classroom teachers uphold. Last year, the Guardian ran an article which asked a 16-year-old pupil to summarise what they would characterise as the ‘perfect teacher’. The list included showing a deep understanding of their pupils, not shouting, showing their personality and remembering that pupils appreciate them. This is all understandable, but is ultimately in addition to the huge amount of requirements set by the school standards and Ofsted – a continuously changing and growing list of responsibilities to be held by an individual, all while trying to be fun and engaging!

There is no doubt that great learning requires great teaching. Discussing what makes a perfect teacher will always be subjective, but there is one thing we know for sure: great teaching requires continuous development and improvement. To achieve the positive learning environment and pupil progress that schools and pupils need, teachers must strive to develop their core skills as a classroom practitioner, particularly in the early stages of their career.

Supporting the new practitioners

For new teachers (and for this I mean teachers up to 3 years qualified), the importance of striking this balance of personal achievement and career development is crucial. As many teachers and senior leaders will know, the first few years can be hugely overwhelming – potentially hundreds of new pupils, masses of new administrative responsibilities and being the new fish in the established pond.

In writing about the essential skills for new teachers, H. Jerome Freiberg noted that the necessary repertoire of teaching strategies were largely developed through trial and error, stating that a haphazard process 'may take several years – by which time many struggling, unprepared new teachers have already left the classroom.' Taking on new challenges as a teacher is certainly part of the remit, but the fact of the matter is that those new to the profession must be supported in making their initial steps to success in the classroom.

Allowing new teachers the opportunity to continue their training in the midst of the madness is something that need not be time-consuming or mind-numbing, and this is where our new Teacher Development Programme is here to help.

Teacher Development Programme

In his Pragmatic Education blog, Joe Kirby made a number of interesting points about the nature of professional development in schools. The list that struck us the most was that of the key features of effective CPD:

  • targeted
  • evidence-based
  • collaborative
  • sustained
  • evaluated.

Never is this more relevant than when we are discussing the development of newer teachers. Our Teacher Development Programme (TDP) was created with two things in mind – to adhere to these key features of effective CPD, and to support newer classroom practitioners in developing their core skills in the most engaging and sustained structure possible.

As the task of being a new teacher can be enough to exhaust the most alert of people. For this reason, training opportunities should be manageable in size and clear in their intentions. The 7 units in the TDP need not be delivered in sequence and take up the already stretched time of new practitioners. Rather, each unit can be delivered individually in response to an area of skill that is most in need of support and development.

In addition to this, each unit comes equipped with self-evaluative resources for teachers to take away, and a list of recommended reading which allows them to deepen their learning of the discussed concepts should they want to develop further.

Ultimately, the goal of the TDP is to support both your school and your teachers to achieve the level of great teaching that pupils deserve. If pupils want their teachers to show their personality and passion for their subject, then new teachers must be supported to gain the confidence in their core teaching skills which allow them to inspire and engage better than ever.

Further resources for supporting new staff


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