Retention is our problem, not recruitment. Research states that nearly half of all teachers in the maintained sector leave the profession within 5 years of qualifying.
This clearly indicates the importance of providing effective support to help develop teachers in their first few years. The loss of a new teacher is more than an inconvenience. It’s also a serious drain on your school’s precious financial resources.
So with that in mind, we’ve put together 11 ways you can support your NQTs when they need you most.
1. Give good feedback
Professor John Hattie has concluded that effective feedback is one of the most important factors impacting on student progress and the same can be said for teachers. To make your feedback as worthwhile as possible, instead of saying things like, “With this class you need to...” or “Teach it like this…”, try encouraging them to solve problems for themselves so they don’t become reliant on you for answers. Ask questions like, “Why do you think that happened?” or “What could’ve made that better?”
Why not check out these 7 tips for making your feedback formative written by expert coach and consultant, Mike Fleetham.
2. Encourage self-reflection
With a profession as challenging as teaching, self-reflection offers NQTs (or any teacher for that matter) the opportunity to think about what works and what doesn’t in their classroom, so they can make adjustments to their practice for the better. Encourage them to take frequent time out to do this and make it a regular part of their job. You could also share this blog with them on the importance of self-reflection.
3. Teach them about time management
Moving to a full time-table can be overwhelming. Help them to prioritise what’s important and things that have more impact, so they can best manage their time. It’s a skill they will need and rely on heavily as their career progresses. For example, teach them how to take more time planning an effective activity that will challenge pupils rather than 2 hours on marking where pupils will take a glance and not necessarily take it on board.
4. Learn from them and enable them to learn from each other
NQTs have come fresh from their training, so this is a golden opportunity for you to learn any new teaching strategies that they might know. They’ll also probably have lots of ideas and knowledge of new technology and resources, so don’t pretend you know them all already; be open and embrace them! It will boost your NQTs confidence and help them to feel like the professional that they are. Equally, NQTs stand to learn a lot from each other. Try to provide them with a community of support where they can share their experiences, for example encouraging them to attend twilight sessions or participate in online forums. Better yet, put them in touch with recently qualified teachers or other NQTs in your school or school’s network.
5. Drop in from time to time
Scheduled observations are all well and good but sometimes weeks can pass and in that time things for your NQT can change immensely. They could be struggling and need support, but for whatever reason don’t feel comfortable coming forward. Alternatively, there maybe areas of success within their practice that could be reinforced and developed further. Performing short informal drop-ins can help significantly and allow you to see the NQT as naturally as possible. But remember these drop-ins are for support rather than analysis.
6. Have regular meetings and make them count
Time is precious, so having regular weekly catch ups where you discuss and set objectives that strike a balance between quick wins and long term growth, are key. Remember to write them down and share them to avoid misunderstandings. Work with them to figure out the next few lessons, months or weeks. Being available for quick chats can also be helpful. If they are working on a specific objective they may just want to quickly bounce ideas around.
7. Help them explore what they don’t know
NQTs will often ask questions about things they already have some knowledge about. As a mentor it is your responsibility to help them discover the things they haven’t even thought of. You have a wealth of information, systems, strategies, and experience worth sharing. Use your knowledge and experience to help them see the bigger picture. But make sure you challenge rather than impose. Share things that make them go away and think about their own practice. It can be easy to forget that as a more experienced educator you have accrued a lot of knowledge.
8. Know the standards
Throughout the year there will be so many times that evidence for a standard could have been collected, only for it to be missed during the business of day-to-day teaching. Having an eye on the standards and knowing them will help you direct your NQT to things they are doing but might not have thought of. Your experience will help identify evidence that may not be apparent to them.
9. Encourage them to take risks and allow them to get it wrong
Encourage your NQTs to take informed risks, develop a growth mindset and see failure as a positive learning opportunity. It will set them up well for future growth and career progression.
“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
Professor Carol Dweck, 2012
10. Put yourself in their shoes
Make sure you listen carefully to your NQTs and respect their concerns in a positive and practical way. You were in their position once, so it’s a good idea to draw on your own experiences and ask yourself... How did I feel? What helped me?
11. Encourage them to prioritise their own wellbeing
As an experienced educator you know how important it is to look after yourself and not let work become the only thing you do. Although your NQTs might leave school at 5:30, they could be spending hours at home doing more work. Keep an eye on what time they arrive and leave, and ask them how much time they spend working at home. Encourage them to get enough rest and set aside time for themselves. They will be better teachers for it. You could also share these 6 tips to improve daily wellbeing with your NQTs.
"Looking back at my experience as an NQT I was lucky enough to have a mentor who had such a balance. They had the drive to push and challenge me. The experience to direct me. The confidence to give me a good ticking off when I wasn't performing. In fact there were days when I even questioned what I was doing as a teacher. There were times when we didn't see eye to eye, but the majority of the days were ones where I felt truly supported."
- David Fawcett, PE Teacher & Learning Innovator
This is an extract from our ‘Practical Guide to Supporting NQTs’. Download the entire guide for FREE here >