Becoming an NQT

Helpful hints from the Exeter Partnership

This newsletter contains advice and suggestions from NQT Mentors in our Partnership Schools to help you make a smooth transition into your NQT year

Please note that colleagues from primary and secondary schools have contributed to this and so there is a range of terminology around pupils, students, classes, departments, key stages etc. Please apply it to your own situation as the advice is good whichever phase you are going to be working in!

Writing a good CEDP

What NQT mentors say about writing a good CEDP...

The most important part of your career entry development profile is your areas for development. Having too many points will hinder your progress, so select 3 or 4 areas for development and focus on these standards. It is vital that you remain organized and continue to keep records in a folder or file so that you can refer to your progress easily in your NQT mentor meetings. Have an honest and frank conversation with your mentor about your strengths and areas for improvement. They will be able to offer advice and guide you in relation to the standards that you will need to gather evidence for.


Your CEDP will need to be focused around your new school. Different schools will mean different standards need focusing on. Will behaviour management be a problem? Are the classes mixed ability or setted? Do you have a large number of students who will need additional support? After considering the areas you will need to focus on in your new role you can start allocating methods to deal with them. Consider giving 3 steps for each one that you can progress through (as a mini-action plan).

An action plan similar to those during the PGCE year indicating what standards to focus on next year, with specific targets as to how to address these.

Set your self achievable targets, learn from the targets that you will set for children and follow a SMART approach. Don't be too wordy or too long, the best documents are ones that are easy to follow and clear and concise, from the NQT's mentor point of view, we are not into reading or marking MA level essays, we like things short and to the point that will promote a good, helpful and reflective discussion with a NQT.

It needs to identify what you perceive your own strengths and areas for development are at the end of your training year. It should enable your NQT mentor to create a personalised programme that utilises your extra non-contact time effectively to help you to continue to develop. It needs to be related to the Standards, especially as performance management is based on this.

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Be reflective and honest, but also true to yourself. Think about your strengths and how they could benefit your new school, don't be shy. Don't focus solely on behaviour management, it is important but in reality one of the many aspects of teaching that you will need to develop during your NQT year.

Show what you've discovered about what you don't yet know and what you didn't get a chance to do whilst training as this will show both enthusiasm and ability to reflect. Mention any areas of special interest that you want to pursue.

Personal and relevant to your strengths and development points. Your CEDP should highlight your career pathway and aspirations. Ideas about your possible completion of a masters level course should also be mentioned. It would also be useful to comment on any inset that you have completed or have a desire to complete.

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Getting ready for your new school

Things to think about before the summer

When you visit the school before September- have a check list of things you want to find out- class lists, academic registers, tutor groups, resources, IT, photocopying, any other NQTS.

Make sure you collect Schemes of Work and curriculum information. Check to see if there are resources already available for any of them.

Have you got your timetable?

Is there a school calendar?

Get to the school and get a feel for the rooms you'll be teaching in. It is also worth familiarising yourself with IT/ classroom facilities to ensure that you are ready to teach in September.

If class lists are not available, you should still have an understanding of the school in regards to SEN and EAL requirements.

Will you be required to teach outside of your area of expertise? Do you need any subject knowledge enhancement (SKE)?

Make sure you are in a union! Normally its free for your NQT year!

Do not forget pastoral. Chances are you will inherit a tutor group... what are the planned activities? Are they grouped by year group or is it a vertical tutoring system? Make sure you plan accordingly. Are you expected to do assemblies?

Collecting resources from your different schools is a waste of time if you do not file them in a logical manner. Make sure digital resources have sensible file names "metals and reactivity lesson 1" rather than "lesson 1". Spend some time over the summer collating all the resources you have 'gathered' over the PGCE year into a logical order.

If you are going to join a subject association make sure you get value for money - what are they giving you? Support? Training? Resources?

Look thoroughly at the school's web site and policies and get familiar with the policies that you will be using from day 1, particularly behaviour, marking and safe-guarding. Be part of the department's summer planning sessions.

Ask for your timetable (and class lists if available) as soon as possible. Check your IT/photocopying/email access, your workspace, classroom arrangements and whether you can access these in the summer holiday. Arrange to organise your classroom before the start of term (display/layout/resources/stationery etc.)

Visit the school - ideally more than once. Get into lessons and help out as colleagues will see you as someone who is prepared to share the load and join in as part of the team. Many a new teacher has been 'damned' in the eyes of their department for 'just sitting there' at the back of the room. Ask about resources and photocopying budget and schemes of work so you can plan lessons over the summer break (obviously have a break too but the more prepared you are the easier it will be).
Priority one: enjoy your summer, have a great holiday, don't think about school all of the time!!

Staying in touch over the summer

It's the holidays, but you might still need to consider.....

Ask your faculty team leader/head of department/headteacher/NQT mentor what the protocol is for contacts over the summer and ensure you are on the staff email list.
You really should keep in touch with your Head of Department over the summer, feeling free to contact them with any queries you might have. Don't expect an immediate response though - they might be away or just glad to have a break! It will be fine to go into school over the holidays to get your room ready. Make friends with the caretaker and whoever cleans your room - they might prove to be invaluable.
Keep in touch with your peers on your course, make sure you share resources and experiences. Chances are you will all be in the same boat!

Those first few days

Making a smart start!

Be polite and inquisitive with members of your department. Don't assume you get to know them instantaneously relationships take a while to develop.
Ask for help and advice from more experienced staff, there are no stupid questions, everyone was a NQT once!

It is overwhelming in the first few days getting to know the names of the class, let alone the members of staff's names. Top names to get learn; 1. Secretary/office staff. 2. Head teacher. 3. Year group/KS staff. 4. Kitchen staff (if they provide staff meals!).

Find out what is happening on the first day of term in advance, if there is an INSET day ask if an agenda has been set and what will be happening. It may be that specific training is arranged for that day, or it might be given over to preparation for the term ahead.

The beginning of term is a busy time for all concerned and you will rightly have lots of questions. Be judicious with your questions, don't try to ask them all at once and possibly spread them around your colleagues. TAs can be very experienced in the routines of the school, so don't leave them out if there is something you need to know.

Establishing a good relationship with your class is very important and how you set out at the start of the year will set the tone for the rest of it. Be clear and assertive and show that you are the teacher, it will feel different from being a trainee to having a class all of your own and that very fact will be empowering.

Talk to a member of senior management about your NQT time, when it is and who will be covering and whether you will be expected to provide work or if it will run itself.

You must know the names and needs of the students you will be teaching. You should be given registers and you might be able to print pictures off for all of your classes - this will really help you get to know names and build relationships. Look on the Register of Need for SEND requirements. Attempt, whenever possible, to use students names outside of the classroom e.g. in the corridor on on duty. You need to build a good relationship with your NQT mentor who will support you in this year and help you to continue to develop professionally. You should have a timetable not exceeding 90% of a standard classroom teacher. Use this time effectively as professional development - observe other classes and teachers, speak to other teachers who have the same classes as you, research areas identified on your CEDP. You still have 10% for PPA. Plan your development with short term goals. You will probably look at behaviour management immediately and need to gain a whole new range of strategies which are in line with the school's policies.

Find your classroom(s) and that of your mentor/line manager/friendly people in the department. Find the staff room and toilets and where you go for lunch. Speak to people - they are expecting you to ask. Arrange a meeting with the senior professional tutor as he/she will be looking after you in terms of training and writing reports for you - it is still an assessment period. You are entitled to reflection time as an NQT and observations both done to you and by you.

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Pitfalls to avoid


Don't try and make friends of the children in your class. You are their teacher, first and foremost, you must be friendly but your job is to teach them, not to be one of them.

Don't expect it all to fall into place on day one. Be realistic in your expectations, you will have support as an NQT and no-one expects you to be the complete teacher. Wow lessons are great but if you try to incorporate that in every lesson you will wear yourself out and the impact it will have on the children will lessen with frequent repetition.

Don't push for extra responsibilities. You are a new member of a tough profession, teaching classes is demanding enough, be patient, there will be opportunities during your career to take on more responsibility, in fact it will become unavoidable.

Don't leave marking to the last minute. Organise your marking into a rotation system so books are seen frequently but you don't end up with all books needing marking at the same time.

Don't worry about asking for advice from your peers. We have all been there and know how difficult it can be. Sometimes one small piece of advice, or just being able to verbalise what you are feeling, can transform a class or a lesson.

Don't be on your own - this is not a job for the antisocial.

Make the most of the NQT year, learn from experienced colleagues, learn the rhythm of the school and the way things are done before you start a revolution or empire building. Become part of the team, a member that colleagues can rely on and support the school, it is a huge team effort.

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Keep up the learning momentum

For the love of learning....

Learning about teaching doesn't stop when you leave university, it continues throughout your whole teaching career. The new initiatives that come in and the cycles of teaching styles are underpinned by research and it is sometimes helpful to go back to this research to inform your teaching.

Look out for courses that can help you, your NQT time can be spent on attending courses and there may be some money in the supply budget for CPD. Subscriptions to TES, Guardian Education and other publications/sites can be helpful, they may have good resources or up to date news. Hamilton Trust are also good at providing plans that you can reflect on and use to inform your own teaching (or teach verbatim, if you wish). Sign up to follow some of teachers who are at the cutting edge to help your practice continue to develop. @headguruteacher @LearningSpy @TeacherToolkit are a good start.

Above all, continue being a reflective practitioner, not after every lesson and don't just focus on the negatives, that didn't work because... . Think about what made the lesson go well.

Don't forget to talk about lessons with any TAs that may be in attendance, they could well have spotted something that you have missed.

Use the Framework for Dialogue in your NQT meetings and also to help you reflect on your progress. It will help you to identify areas that need developing and help you to use your NQT time effectively if you set yourself reading and research habits.

Agendas are a really powerful tool- continue to use them to focus the mind and for observation.

Go to all the CPD and teach meets you can. Observe other teachers as much as you can.

Keep some of your time aside for you - Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time (DIRT) - and think ahead for the next 3-5 years: where do you want to be? Who could you speak to about getting there?

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there is a module especially for NQTs!

and finally

Words of wisdom!

Enjoy yourself. You are new and enthusiastic. Students will warm to you if they see this reflected in your energy and behaviour, once you've developed a relationship with a class you can tell them if they are trying something new and you can assess how it went together.

Keep everything in perspective. It will be stressful, especially until Easter. Don't take things personally. Maintain a calm and professional outward appearance (despite your stress). The students are likely to test you until you become familiar and reliable. Taking part in extra-curricular activities/trips is very valuable in building relationships (they will see you as human eventually).

Remember to enjoy your work. All of us came into teaching to educate and to make a difference. Keep that in mind when things get tough and you are feeling overwhelmed. Also make sure that you ask for advice from your colleagues, we have all been NQT's and have stories that can help you through any situation. Humour is essential, it keep us all going on the dark days.

You should not be judged by the amount of time you spend in school, being first in and last out everyday doesn't make you a better teacher, protect your work / life balance, be a well-rounded and grounded teacher. Yes, teaching needs preparation and there is much to do, but don't let it take over your life.

The advantage an NQT has over a trainee is that the NQT has more control over deadlines, not everything has to be done there and then, learn to prioritise your workload. There are a number of non-negotiables, e.g. Parents' evenings, end of term assessments and reports, but you are in control of your class, so make the most of it. If it isn't achievable don't put it on your to-do list.

Remember that despite a list as long as your arm you can only get so much done in a day. So prioritise what needs to be done each day and make it realistic. you have a whole year to get through!

Remember that this year is still a training year. Make the most of any training on offer e.g. Professional Studies sessions. You are still learning and it is really nice to be the one who has finished the training year and survived! You still know what it is like. If you've had a bad day, always focus on a good lesson, even if it is one good lesson a week. Reflect on the others, but don't dwell on them.

Teaching is the best job in the world but can feel like the worst job in the world if you keep all the tribulations to yourself

Keep on asking for advice from experienced teachers on all aspects of developing as a teacher e.g. planning/behaviour management/time management etc.

Don't expect to perfect in the first year. It takes a long time to become the teacher you will be.

Don't forget to continue to complete your CEDP and send it to as detailed

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Stay in touch

Do let us know....

It's good to hear about how well you're doing as your career progresses. is always happy to hear from you!

with very best wishes

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(c) University of Exeter Graduate School of Education