Early Career Teachers: Surviving and thriving – part two

This article was written for SecEd magazine.

This is the second in a two-part series. You can read Part One here

In the first of my two articles on thriving in the time of coronavirus, I sympathised with those of you who are currently contemplating quitting the classroom and I made a plea to hold on because it does get easier.

I noted that, although it’s common to feel overwhelmed during your first term and to feel tired in the run-up to Christmas, this year is different because, as schools struggle to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, capacity is lacking and many of you are not being supported as much as you would like. What’s more, your ITT year may have been cut short by the lockdown and so you may not have been able to fully prepare for your induction.

So, in the circumstances, what can you, as an NQT, do in order to ensure you successfully complete your induction period?

First, let’s define our terms… the government describes the NQT statutory induction as “the bridge between initial teacher training and a career in teaching”. It should combine “a personalised programme of development, support and professional dialogue with monitoring and an assessment of performance” against the Teachers’ Standards.

Your NQT year should, therefore, support you in demonstrating that your performance against the Teachers’ Standards is satisfactory by the end of the year and equip you with the tools to be an effective and successful teacher thereafter.

Some NQTs will be part of the early roll-out of the Early Career Framework reforms, entitling them to two years of induction and a package of structured support. But the advice contained in this article is for those of you not in the pilot scheme with a one-year induction.

Before I tackle the Teachers’ Standards, it’s worth noting an important piece of additional guidance the government has provided for this year as a result of the coronavirus…

They say that NQT absences related to coronavirus will not contribute towards the absence limit. Induction arrangements state that ad hoc absences totalling 30 days or more automatically extend induction by the aggregate number of days absent. This year, however, any absences related to coronavirus, including school closures, sickness or self-isolation, will not count towards this limit. This means that you can complete your induction as expected, provided you meet the Teachers’ Standards… talking of which…

The Teachers’ Standards

The Teachers’ Standards are used to assess your performance at the end of your induction period. The decision about whether your performance against the standards is satisfactory upon completion of induction should take into account your work context and must be made on the basis of what can be reasonably expected of you by the end of your induction period.

I would suggest that the phrase “reasonably expected” is particularly important this year because if an NQT’s induction is affected by the coronavirus, headteachers can make a decision on whether they have still met the Teachers’ Standards, including by looking at previous assessment records, discussions with induction tutors and consideration of “non-routine teaching practice” when schools are partially or fully closed.

This year, as previously, judgments should reflect the expectation that you have effectively consolidated your initial teacher training and demonstrated your ability to meet the relevant standards consistently over a sustained period in your practice.

So, what are the most relevant standards, what do they mean in practice, and how can you demonstrate that you’re meeting them?

The first standard to focus on, I think, is this: Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils. This standard says that you should establish a safe and stimulating environment for pupils, rooted in mutual respect, set goals that stretch and challenge pupils of all backgrounds, abilities and dispositions, and demonstrate consistently the positive attitudes, values and behaviour which are expected of pupils.

To find out what this might look like in practice, I would refer you to my SecEd article on The Pygmalion Effect (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/nqt-special-what-do-high-expectations-actually-look-like/), my article on motivating students (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/how-can-you-motivate-your-students/) and to my articles on the habits of a good teacher (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/nqt-special-the-habits-of-a-great-teacher/) and the eight steps of excellence: https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/eight-steps-to-teaching-excellence/

The second standard to focus on is: Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils. This standards says that you should be accountable for pupils’ attainment, progress and outcomes, be aware of pupils’ capabilities and their prior knowledge, and plan teaching to build on these, guide pupils to reflect on the progress they have made and their emerging needs, demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how pupils learn and how this impacts on teaching, and encourage pupils to take a responsible and conscientious attitude to their own work and study.

Here, I would refer you to my article on using research evidence to improve the impact of your teaching (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/knowledge-bank/feedback-metacognition-and-other-interventions/) and also, in the circumstances, to my article on making a success of remote learning as this may form part of your assessment this year: https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/practical-realistic-effective-home-education-approach-ideas-teachers-coronavirus-covid-19/ I would also refer you to my series on how pupils learn: (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/knowledge-bank/best-practice-series-how-do-students-learn/),

The third standard is: Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge. To meet this standard you must have a secure knowledge of the relevant subject(s) and curriculum areas you teach, foster and maintain pupils’ interest in the subject, and address misunderstandings, demonstrate a critical understanding of developments in the subject and curriculum areas, and promote the value of scholarship, and demonstrate an understanding of and take responsibility for promoting high standards of literacy, articulacy and the correct use of standard English, whatever the teacher’s specialist subject .

Here, in addition to my series on how pupils learn (above), I would refer you to my articles on curriculum intent (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/curriculum-design-under-the-new-ofsted-regime/), implementation (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/curriculum-implementation-ofsted-education-inspection-framework-schools/) and impact (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/curriculum-impact-the-right-end-points-ofsted-inspection-teaching-pedagogy-intent-implementation/)

The fourth standard of note is: Plan and teach well-structured lessons. To meet this standard, you must impart knowledge and develop understanding through effective use of lesson time, promote a love of learning and children’s intellectual curiosity, set homework and plan other out-of-class activities to consolidate and extend the knowledge and understanding pupils have acquired, reflect systematically on the effectiveness of lessons and approaches to teaching, and contribute to the design and provision of an engaging curriculum within the relevant subject area(s).

Here, I would refer you to my article on the 4-part teaching sequence (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/nqt-special-edition-a-four-step-teaching-sequence/), to my article on lesson planning: https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/nqt-special-a-planned-lesson-not-a-lesson-plan/ and to my article on effective homework: https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/effective-homework-at-key-stage-3/

The next standard is: Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils. To meet this standard, you need to know when and how to differentiate appropriately, using approaches which enable pupils to be taught effectively, have a secure understanding of how a range of factors can inhibit pupils’ ability to learn, and how best to overcome these, demonstrate an awareness of the physical, social and intellectual development of children, and know how to adapt teaching to support pupils’ education at different stages of development, and have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with special educational needs; those of high ability; those with English as an additional language; those with disabilities; and be able to use and evaluate distinctive teaching approaches to engage and support them.

Here, I would refer you to my article on working with teaching assistants: https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/nqt-special-working-with-teaching-assistants/, to my series on supporting pupils with SLCN (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/knowledge-bank/speech-language-and-communications-needs-in-key-stage-3/) and to my series on more generic forms of differentiation: https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/knowledge-bank/strategies-for-effective-differentiation-in-your-classroom-part-1/

Marking and feedback are at the heart of the next standard, which is: Make accurate and productive use of assessment. Thus, will need to know and understand how to assess the relevant subject and curriculum areas, including statutory assessment requirements, make use of formative and summative assessment to secure pupils’ progress, and use relevant data to monitor progress, set targets, and plan subsequent lessons. You also need to give pupils regular feedback, both orally and through accurate marking, and encourage pupils to respond to the feedback.

Here, I would refer you to my series on marking and feedback (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/knowledge-bank/effective-feedback-techniques-and-practices/), to the supplement I wrote with Dylan Wiliam on formative assessment (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/knowledge-bank/formative-assessment-five-classroom-strategies-dylan-wiliam-pedagogy-feedback-marking/) and to my piece on teaching exam classes (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/nqt-special-teaching-exam-classes/) which may be a new experience for you this year.

Finally, I would suggest this standard is of importance when gathering evidence: Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment. This standard says that you should have clear rules and routines for behaviour in classrooms, and take responsibility for promoting good and courteous behaviour both in classrooms and around the school, in accordance with the school’s behaviour policy, have high expectations of behaviour, and establish a framework for discipline with a range of strategies, using praise, sanctions and rewards consistently and fairly, manage classes effectively, using approaches which are appropriate to pupils’ needs in order to involve and motivate them, and maintain good relationships with pupils, exercise appropriate authority, and act decisively when necessary.

Here, I would refer you to my article offering tips to new teachers on managing behaviour (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/behaviour-management-for-new-teachers/), to my article on developing your presence in the classroom (https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/nqt-special-edition-developing-your-presence-in-the-classroom/) and my piece on rules and routines: https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/nqt-special-edition-classroom-routines/

To summarise, I would suggest that you start to gather evidence of:

• Your high expectations / classroom environment
• Student outcomes (in their widest sense)
• Your subject knowledge – existing and developing
• Lesson planning / curriculum design
• Differentiation / stretch and challenge
• Marking and feedback
• Behaviour management

For each of the above, you may find it useful to structure your evidence using something like the STARR model…

Situation – Describe a situation that relates to this standard
Task – Explain how you identified what needed to be done
Action – Explain, stage by stage, what you did
Result – Explain what the outcome was
Reflection – Explain what you learnt from this experience and what you’ll do differently in future

To help, you may want to invest in a lever-arched folder with dividers for each of the standards. And I would urge you to start gathering your evidence immediately, if you haven’t already, rather than wait until you have a mentor meeting or, worse, until the end of the year when you have a final review.

As well as writing up your evidence using the STARR model, gather, magpie-like, supporting documentation such as lesson plans, resources, copies of marked work, feedback from colleagues, students and parents, progress data, meeting minutes, and so on. Getting into the habit of saving documents now is far easier than scrambling around for something later.

What else you’re expected to do during your NQT year

During your NQT year, as well as gathering evidence of how you’re meeting the Teachers’ Standards, you’re expected to meet with your induction tutor/mentor to discuss and agree the priorities for your induction and to keep these priorities under constant review. It may be necessary in these strange times to take the lead on this and to make sure the meetings are scheduled and go ahead. It may also be helpful if you take minutes of the meetings yourself and keep track of the feedback you’re given and what you do with it.

You’re also expected to participate in an agreed development programme, and this includes CPD. I would suggest you not only keep a record of what CPD you engage in, but also write a reflection diary noting what you did with the training and what impact it has had on your professional practice. The same applies to classroom observations, progress reviews and formal assessment meetings – take a lead in making them happen, taking notes and gathering evidence of how you’re responded to any feedback.

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