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September 2020: NQTs – an opportunity?

Gemma Griffiths has worked with the Greenfields Team as a Professional Partner since June 2019.

This year, we are delighted to welcome her to the team as a Senior Consultant.

Her expertise in senior leadership and passion for all things curriculum make her a great asset to the team.

Gemma continues to work in schools in the East of England regularly and here, she explore her thoughts about the potential opportunity that September 2020 offers us in rethinking how we support NQTs.



There has always been debate about which is the most successful route into teaching. Amongst leaders, there are often strong opinions on which pathway produces the highest calibre newly qualified teachers (NQTs).


This year we find ourselves in new territory and, I wonder if instead of feeling nervous for our NQTs, about to launch into their careers, we should feel excited. Is this the opportunity for schools to support and shape a confident teacher using a new model - a hybrid of the best parts of existing ITT programmes?

‘The challenge of retaining early career teachers has been getting worse in recent years. Over 20% of new teachers leave the profession within their first 2 years of teaching, and 33% leave within their first 5 years’ (DfE 2019).


From this, the Early Career Framework was born, to be piloted this year in multiple locations. This statistic may allude to the weaknesses in how we currently prepare NQTs and might lead us to question the ongoing support that they receive.


Anyone that has served as a classroom practitioner knows that there are key aspects, such as behaviour management, subject knowledge, assessment and feedback, that can make or break how successful a teacher can be. Interestingly, the publication of the Teacher and Recruitment strategy found that early career teachers were often not getting the high-quality support needed for a successful career. The same report also found that ‘Misbehaviour – from low-level disruption to violent conduct – is a key driver of teacher workload and stress’ and, whilst this needs to be explored, the impending change in the school landscape as result of C19, where pupils have had varied experiences and expectations on what and how they learn, will need due consideration within schools. Could it be that those schools that commit time to establishing the right culture for positive behaviour from the outset, instead of focusing efforts on over assessment of pupils in the early infancy of the term, might just invest their time in the right place, not only for NQTs, but for the rest of the school also?


In September I will be in the privileged position of designing our programme for supporting NQTs and what strikes me is the reflection and honesty they have regarding their own professional development. From September, shouldn’t this be what drives the framework created to support them? This new scenario provides an opportunity for a bespoke programme delivered by schools, specific to NQT need. So that for this cohort of NQTs, the experience is based on a coaching model of continuous reflective dialogue and not just a tick box exercise of completing an exhaustive programme.


We know that within schools, there are swathes of highly skilled and experienced professionals, some of whom feel frustrated and unable to share the knowledge and experience they have without taking on a leadership role. However, they are often masters in certain areas of provision; a resource that is currently not always effectively used to its full potential. This alternative model to professional growth may just provide an opportunity for schools to use the knowledge and skills amongst existing teachers. This could leave teachers feeling valued and invested in , undoubtedly improve their own job satisfaction. Could this contribute to the retention of our most skilled teachers?


For NQTs to experience high quality teaching and learning within their own context is surely more valuable than reading it in a book or creating an imaginary medium-term plan? Instead, should we invest time and trust in our existing colleagues to support an apprenticeship model which nurtures growth rather than prescribes it? Showing them how valued they are by asking them to provide gallery lessons, team-teaching opportunities and provide ongoing support to our NQTs. As educators, this may just begin an open and honest dialogue amongst all of us regarding our strengths and build relationships amongst staff to lean on one another when we can. What a culture this would create.


References:

Department for Education., (2019). Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy (online). Available from:https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/786856/DFE_Teacher_Retention_Strategy_Report.pdf accessed 08.07.20

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