We are now well into the autumn term – how are your NQTs doing? Meeting targets? Attending meetings? Following school procedures? Not to mention teaching!
After a recent question was raised in Parliament, news reports (such as by the BBC and The Telegraph) have revealed that over 30% of the NQTs who started in 2010 have already left the teaching profession. In other words, that’s the future potential of around 7,200 trained colleagues wasted.
Clearly, the reasons for leaving will be many and varied. But a significant factor is the difficulty of coping with the stresses and workload of a constantly demanding job.
Of course, we all know that each NQT has to be allocated a mentor for their induction year. And that there are professional standards that have to be reached.
There is a wealth of literature and online guidance about the role of the Induction Mentor or Tutor – and almost all of it focuses on how to conduct the process of meeting the targets for achieving the standards; devising a programme of monitoring, assessment, recording, training, coaching, etc.
Hardly anything is mentioned about actually looking after your NQTs – and yet the emotional support is at least as important as all the practical stuff.
Let’s be clear – I’m not suggesting that you ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’. What I am saying here is let’s consider the person rather than the process.
The support needs a three-pronged approach:
Training to improve subject knowledge and enhance teaching skills is still essential in these early stages – and indeed throughout one’s career; coasting is no longer an option for anyone.
Establishing professional standards through good role modelling, effective individual coaching and a programme addressing identified school priorities e.g. behaviour management, stretching the more able…
Well, actually ‘No’. Coaching is a much more target-focused, time-bound process.
But a good mentor is crucial. Think of it as the equivalent of the excellent pastoral care that goes alongside the academic monitoring of pupils in every outstanding school.
The real value in a mentor (rather than a coach) is the listening ear, the benefit of similar experience, snippets of good advice, knowing where the pitfalls lie, the sounding board who is not judging against a list of targets.
Additionally, the mentor relationship usually lasts longer than the initial induction period. It is a telling fact, that in the recent figures, although 13% left in the first year of their careers, there continued to be a steady 5% loss in the next two years and 4% in the fourth year. Once the ‘probationary’ period is over, and the induction support programme has been transferred to the next intake it is re-assuring to know that there is still a mentor to chat to if necessary.
Mentoring adds another dimension to the professional support system. As a mentor is usually a more experienced colleague who is familiar with the setting, culture and role, this is not necessarily a team leader position. In fact, it can be very beneficial if the mentor is NOT a line manager or member of SLT – not every NQT would want to admit their anxieties and insecurities to ‘the boss’, especially if the boss is doing the observations and making the judgements.
Time is a limited commodity, but it is essential in this relationship. It is a matter of priorities. There are so many other demands on the time of SLT members or subject heads that sometimes checking in with the NQTs becomes more a matter of squeezing in a meeting, ticking ‘the standards’ boxes, ensuring that the induction requirements have been met and signed off. Mentoring is much more informal. It’s someone who is available for advice, guidance or a re-assuring chat whenever needed.
Sometimes new staff members may identify their own ‘role model’ or experienced colleague whose attitude and work they admire – this can result in a powerful, long-term mentoring relationship, especially during career transitions.
To illustrate the importance of getting the balance right, a brief anecdote: a few years ago, I heard of an NQT who was severely stressed because in her induction programme she had been given a massive 26 targets by her school in her first month of teaching! Even worse, this came to my attention because one of my (excellent) new teachers who had met the unfortunate colleague was panicking that she wasn’t doing enough. The power of self-doubt and insecurity had kicked in – her anxiety was palpable. What she needed (and needed now) wasn’t training or coaching – it was all about re-assurance, confidence in her own abilities and a healthy dose of perspective.
Oh, and just one final thing – what happened to the anxious young teacher who needed the re-assurance? Three years later she became a subject leader in her first promotion!
Get more tips on mentoring and coaching in our leadership courses:
See all our Leadership and Management courses here.
If you think your NQTs might more support, why not book them onto one of our NQT courses:
To see all of our courses for NQTs click here.
Lynne has over 30 years’ experience in education, both as a classroom practitioner and Senior Leader. Qualified to PhD level in Geography, she also has a wide range of management experience and holds the NPQH. An experienced freelance trainer, writer and consultant, Lynne is also sought after as a curriculum and timetabling advisor. She is actively involved in the development of new courses and the writing of training materials. Comments by Creative Education delegates include “a fantastic tutor” and “good, practical, down to earth ideas, based on real experience”. Lynne currently specialises in delivering courses from the geography portfolio, PSHEe, well-being and resilience, LRCs/libraries and a broad range of leadership and management topics for both teaching and support staff. She is also part of the team of Creative Education Core Skills trainers delivering the British Council Connecting Classrooms programme.