Tuesday, 16 February 2016

New Teachers- After the First Term

This article first appeared in The Teacher magazine January/February 2016

As they prepared for the Christmas break, new teachers told us about their experiences of their first term in teaching.

We know how daunting it can be the first time you step into a classroom. Sweaty palms, shaky voice, dry throat… those first few days can feel like an eternity as you question whether you chose the right career, especially when pupils misbehave or a class lacks enthusiasm. But then you see glimmers of hope – a struggling student ‘gets it’, a class erupts in giggles at a silly joke you told, a parent offers a kind word of praise – and your optimism is renewed.

It can feel like a rollercoaster ride at the beginning of the year, but new teachers overwhelmingly agree that it is a ride worth sticking out as the rewards far outweigh the challenges.

Here we look at NUT members’ candid reflections of the past few months in the life of a new teacher.

Surprises  
Teaching is an unpredictable profession and training can only prepare you for so much.
Zoe, a School Direct teacher in East Yorkshire, explained some of her initial wobbles.
“The start of the year was really hard. I felt nervous at first contacting parents, since I’m young, but it’s getting better.”
Bethan, an NQT at a primary school in Wales, shares that for her “the most surprising thing has been the workload”.
Naomi, an NQT supply teacher in Nottinghamshire, was equally surprised by the workload. “It’s incredible how long it takes to do the marking, which I didn’t expect.”
“At first it was challenging and emotionally draining,” says Hannah, an NQT in a London secondary school. “It was little things – I didn’t have a fob, I didn’t know my colleagues, I didn’t have the photocopier code and so on.”

Support Systems  
Having someone to turn to with questions or concerns is crucial in those first few months and building a proper support network helps smooth out the bumps along the way.
“The other reception teacher has been amazing guiding me through everything,” explains Bethan. “My NQT mentor in the school has always been there when I’ve needed someone to speak to regarding observations and parents evenings.”
“As a supply teacher it can be difficult, since every school is completely different,” says Naomi. “Generally, schools have been supportive and head teachers have popped in to see how I’m doing. Some schools haven’t been very helpful though, for example, not showing me where the toilets or staffrooms are.”

Rewards  
We all know teaching can be challenging at times, but the consensus is that the rewards compensate for the difficult moments.
“One thing I have found rewarding is that teaching has presented me with the opportunity to keep learning every day,” shares Festus, an NQT at a London academy. “I work in a dynamic environment where no two days are the same. Each lesson comes with its own challenges which has pushed me to be more creative and think outside the box.”
Chris, an NQT at a sixth form in the Wirral, tells us: “I’ve loved the past few months, it’s been very interesting. I really like interacting with my students and having a positive influence in shaping their futures.”
For Bethan, the most rewarding part is watching pupils achieve a goal. “Seeing a child practising a certain letter or number over and over again and then they finally do it correctly makes you so proud. It helps you remember why you love your job.”

Future Aspirations  
Festus shares his hopes for the next term: “I have spent this term getting to know my pupils and I look forward to building on that and forming positive relationships in an environment where they are appropriately stretched and challenged.”
“Working with a range of ages and abilities has given me a wealth of experience and confidence,” says Naomi. “I look forward to taking everything I have learned and applying it in my own class one day.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing the pupils in my class grow more in the various areas of the curriculum,” Bethan says. “It’s been lovely seeing the children enjoy school life and there’s never a dull moment – every day they make me laugh.”

NUT Support  
The NUT is here to support you every step of the way during your first year and there are many advantages of membership.
“Being an NUT member has been very beneficial to me in terms of CPD. I have attended three workshops which have helped me to improve my teaching strategies and promote behaviour for learning in my classroom,” says Festus.
“It is great being an NUT member in Wales – the NUT team have been very supportive and are always there if I need advice,” Bethan adds. “I have been very impressed by the amount of courses available and the ones I have attended have given me many ideas and tips to take back into the classroom.”
Training to teach this year? You will have received the NUT guide Finding your first job, which was posted to members before Christmas. If you are training to teach via School Direct we will send you more information soon.
If you know someone who hasn’t yet joined the Union please ask them to join. Membership is free whilst training to teach and just £1 for NQTs.

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.

Stress
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.

Marking
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.

Hygiene
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.

Inspections
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

Behaviour
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.

Advice for School Direct trainees

This advice was first published in The Teacher magazine in September 2015

If I’m on School Direct, how do I get the best from my training?

In most cases, with the exception of those which offer QTS without a PGCE qualification, School Direct Schemes are linked to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

In the case of School Direct (salaried), HEIs will have a role in quality assurance. With the School Direct tuition based schemes, HEIs have a stronger involvement. They will provide a significant part of your training and, working with your school, will establish your teaching timetable.

As a School Direct tuition fee trainee, to benefit fully from your training you should have a named mentor and/or teacher whom you can contact about any aspect of your training and for subject specific support.

In addition, you will have a named HEI tutor who will teach aspects of the initial teacher education curriculum and assess you on school practice.

You are also entitled to proper study time, written resources, space and materials, in order to help with your written assignments and teaching. Adequate time should also be provided by those responsible for your training in order to discuss your progress and experiences.