June 2020 edition: Mitigating The Impact of COVID-19 on NQTs

Mitigating The Impact of COVID-19 on NQTs

School closure due to COVID-19 has reduced the training time for those on ITT courses by over one third. Not surprisingly, feedback is suggesting that many trainees are feeling less confident than they would have been about their new role as an NQT from September. This comes at a time when the behaviour of some pupils returning after a long period of absence may present more challenges. This article considers how schools or trusts might modify their induction processes to support this new intake. NTA (National Teacher Accreditation) will be providing more guidance to schools in relation to this. Other Appropriate Bodies may also be sharing ideas.

The article by Professor Sam Twiselton (in this journal) notes that encouragingly many trainees are taking the initiative and seeking to augment their own professional development by using their time to access good quality on-line training and are also supporting their placement schools with on-line learning. This will be a high quality development experience for the trainees and will hopefully be something that they, and their schools can build on. The challenges we are currently facing will lead to new learning opportunities for both pupils and teachers.

An understanding of the challenges for September will need to be acknowledged by school leaders and those with responsibility for supporting NQTs. New teachers will need to know that it is ok to ask for help!

Martin Shevill

The role of the tutor/mentor will be even more important. Schools may consider providing a little more non-contact time for these colleagues to provide more support. The term one NQT curriculum often has a focus on lesson planning and classroom management. A little more time will be required in the autumn term with other training themes having a reduced focus. Maggie Sanchez-Gleason the NQT Programme Lead for Ark commented; ‘All coaching and support will be focussed on establishing a positive classroom culture and planning for the first few months.’

Many schools and trusts have aligned schemes of learning for key stages with shared teaching resources and assessments. This will be extremely supportive for new teachers and schools/trusts that work with a more autonomous approach to curriculum and lesson planning should consider providing such schemes along with clear guidance on planning and ensuring all teaching resources and common assessments are accessible. This is a workload issue for the latter half of the summer term but trusts are in a strong position to share this workload. Individual schools could also consider collaborating with others and sharing materials and approaches . It may also be the case that schools have created a wider range of teaching resources in digital format and this could lead to a greater mentoring focus on pedagogy rather than resource development.

Some schools and trusts are providing additional on-line tutorials for NQTs over summer, again prioritising planning and classroom management. Ark are planning additional summer schools to the ones already scheduled. Trusts could create more opportunities for webinars for NQTs based on subject-based professional development. On-line ‘TeachMeets’ could be encouraged. Collaboration between schools and trusts with those that have established systems could be opened up to a wider community. If schools have a bank of videoed lessons that demonstrate excellent practice, these could be made accessible for NQTs to complete virtual observations over summer.

More specific NQT related training is being considered by some schools and trusts for the September training day including scheduling an additional training day at the start of the term. Other ideas might include:

  • increasing the number of lesson ‘drop-ins’ or learning walks in term one, perhaps reducing the number of longer, more formal observations
  • additional support with teaching groups e.g. organising or changing seating plans
  • additional help in creating an attractive classroom environment
  • additional book scrutiny with possible help with marking common assessments
  • early advice on the use of pupil self-assessment
  • working closely with the tutor/mentor to analyse performance data and identify where additional support or intervention is needed
  • an additional day off timetable in each of the first half terms for reflective practice, planning, visits to other schools or more lesson observations.

Writing the first assessment (end of term one for the majority) may be a little different next academic year. Tutors/mentors will need to have realistic expectations as progress may be a little steadier than usual in the first term. It will be important not to overwhelm the NQT with too many areas for development with a focus on a limited number of the standards.

There are some wider experiences that trainees will have missed. Summer term is a time for timetable changes for test and examination revision. It is also a time for educational visits and sports days. These are events that develop year, department and whole staff teamwork that help to promote the ethos of the school. Some of these valuable experiences may therefore be delayed.

An understanding of the challenges for September will need to be acknowledged by school leaders and those with responsibility for supporting NQTs. New teachers will need to know that it is ok to ask for help! What will be different is that NQTs will be joining a body of staff re-connecting with each other for a new start and capitalising on ideas about virtual and digital delivery that have gained traction during lock-down. This in itself will foster a mutually supportive team spirit in our schools. Responding to challenging situations can often result in positive outcomes.