Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The NQT Survival Guide

Final exams are over, training years are complete and whole wardrobes of smart-casual have been purchased. Now all that’s left is the rest of your career. The first year of teaching is daunting for any new teacher, no matter whether you come through PGCE, School Direct or Teach First. So we’ve put together a guide with all the tips you need to survive those first few months.

Lesson Plans
Lesson plans should be kept to a minimum length and can be set out in bullet points or notes, including how learning objectives can be achieved. The format is entirely a matter of professional judgment, as the DfE, Ofsted and Estyn do not require a particular format.  You should not be expected to hand in lesson plans for scrutiny by senior management, so speak to your NUT rep if you are asked to do this.

The most common causes of teacher stress include workload and Ofsted/Estyn inspections. The NUT believes all school employers should have a policy on how to reduce and prevent teacher stress.
If you are feeling stressed, it is likely your colleagues will be too. Speak to your NUT rep so that they can provide support and offer suggestions on how to combat stress. NUT guidance on Tackling Teacher Stress is available at: teachers.org.uk/node/12562.

Every teacher should be able to exercise their professional autonomy when it comes to marking frequency and style. The Ofsted clarification document, for example, is clear that triple marking or excessive written feedback between teacher and pupil is not required and inspectors will not expect to see a written record of oral feedback. The Ofsted clarification is available at: gov.uk.

Schools and colleges can be hotbeds of germs and there should be processes in place to limit the spread of colds and illnesses. These include regular and thorough cleaning throughout the school, ensuring hand soap is available and following proper ,rst aid procedures.
Pupils and teachers with infectious illnesses should not go into their schools until the risk of passing on the condition has abated. If you have any concerns, speak to your NUT health and safety rep.

Child Protection
Teachers are not responsible for investigating suspected physical or emotional abuse, but should know where to report any concerns. Acquaint yourself with the procedures in your school, academy or college for dealing with suspected abuse. Know who the designated teacher responsible for child protection is and insist on receiving appropriate training on child protection issues.

PPA Time
All teachers are entitled to have at least 10% of their teaching timetable for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA). This time should be allocated during core school hours, not be bolted on either side of a school day, and must be allocated in minimum blocks of 30 minutes. NQTs are also entitled to spend 10% less time teaching than other main scale teachers, so that they have time to undertake activities in their induction programme. Teachers on School Direct have the same rights and responsibilities, but generally won’t be expected to fulfil as many of the teaching duties. Read our School Direct guide at teachers.org.uk for more information.

Classroom Design
Teachers in primary and early years’ settings may sometimes sit with pupils at their desks. However, you should not be expected to spend prolonged periods of time on small furniture designed for pupils as this can lead to back, shoulder and neck pain, and other musculoskeletal conditions.
Teachers should vary their time between sitting in a suitable chair and standing as necessary. If you start experiencing any issues with this, speak to your NUT health and safety rep.

Starting Pay
Most new teachers will be placed at the bottom end of the main pay range. The Government’s School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) does, however, permit governing bodies to place teachers with relevant experience outside teaching at a higher point.  If you’ve been told the school will do this, ensure your pay reflects the position. If you’re working in an academy, you should check the pay arrangements in place. Under the School Direct (salaried) scheme, the salary you receive will be dependent on the school you apply to and the subject you wish to teach, but you will generally be paid as an unqualified teacher. If you’re on a School Direct tuition fee route, your training will be funded by tuition fees and you will be eligible to receive some student support, such as student loans.

Clerical and Administrative Tasks
There is no requirement for teachers to undertake clerical tasks that do not require professional skill and judgement, so don’t get bogged down with routine administration. Speak to your mentor, head of department or line manager if you feel you are spending too much time on administrative tasks.

Your first Ofsted or Estyn inspection can seem daunting, but don’t worry – the Union has put together a suite of advice materials to support you through the process, including the popular Ofsted – an NUT Survival Guide. A new Ofsted framework takes effect this term and Union materials fully reflect the new framework and key changes to inspection.  Above all, remember that Ofsted and Estyn inspections should not be an experience to endure alone. Seek out your fellow NUT members and together find a collective approach to inspections, which minimises additional work and ensures that teachers are in control of the process.

After School
Taking on activities such as breakfast or after school clubs must be on a voluntary basis. No teacher should ever be put under pressure to participate. If you do take on additional activities, in some circumstances you can be paid for the time if employed under the STPCD. The level of payment should be set out in your school’s pay policy. Payments to classroom teachers should only be made for activities undertaken outside of the 1,265 hours of directed time - or the appropriate proportion for part-time teachers. So before you decide to take on any such work, check your school’s pay policy.

Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS)
All new teachers will automatically be enrolled into the ‘career average’ TPS that began in April 2015, under which you’ll pay at least 7.4% of your salary towards your pension. We know this is a big ask, with other pressures such as student loans and rent, but remember your employer contributes 16.4% to the TPS. Despite recent Government changes that increased the contribution rate and increased the retirement age, the scheme is still the most valuable benefit available for teachers. The NUT’s advice is to stay in the TPS. Find more information at: teacherspensions.co.uk

Even the most experienced teachers find pupil behaviour challenging at times. Make sure that you read the school’s behaviour policy and discuss school practice with your mentor when joining a new school.
Remember to establish your own expectations and class rules. It is best to outline this with pupils at the beginning of the academic year. They are more likely to respond positively to rules that they have agreed.
For further tips on behaviour management visit teachers.org.uk/nqt/behaviourtips or email newteachers@nut.org.uk for a hard copy of the NQT Behaviour Guide.

Work-Life Balance
The NUT thinks all schools should have a work-life balance policy. The DfE has also stated that schools should consider incorporating work-life balance into the school development plan, so check to see if your school has one.

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