The Covid-19 pandemic affected the development of initial teacher trainees (ITT) and newly qualified teachers (NQTs) in a variety of different ways. Teacher educators had to think of new ways to develop future teachers to ensure that they are confident and prepared for their new roles in the autumn term. ITTs did not have the opportunity to consolidate their key learning points in school placements during the final term. For many, a second placement just started when the lockdown was enforced. This meant that learning had to take place through online platforms. Many ITTs were not able to continue to refine their classroom practices. In my many conversations with ITTs as teacher educator, students raised their concerns regarding schools’ perceptions on their ‘lack of confidence’ or ‘lack of training’. In some cases, schools expressed that they are not recruiting NQTs at this stage for that reason.
At a time where teacher retention is a concern – schools not having confidence in NQTs as teachers, raises the question whether these valuable ITTs, starting as NQTs will be retained? Important questions to consider are:
- What needs to be put in place to support NQTs’ transition into teaching?
- What needs to be put in place to continue to support their development as NQTs?
- What are the gaps in their learning due to Covid-19?
- How can these gaps be addressed?
Some NQTs might be confident and ready to support learners in the classroom; however, others, might require more support.
The Early Careers Framework (DfE, 2019), emphasises the importance of mentoring during the NQT year. Starr (2015) points out that mentors need to evaluate the starting point of their mentees, and shape their practice accordingly. Blanchard and Diaz-Ortiz (2018) point out that when confidence is low, or the learning needs are still high, more specific mentoring approaches are needed. Mentors cannot assume that their mentees are fully confident moving into their new roles post Covid-19. More targeted support is needed.
‘Mentors cannot assume that their mentees are fully confident moving into their new roles post Covid-19. More targeted support is needed.’
However, in an education landscape where accountability is a high priority, and a more performative approach to teacher practice is embedded, it is imperative to ensure that school leaders are clear that NQTs will need a guiding hand during the first few months. A learning space where high challenge and low threat is in place will make a great difference (Myatt, 2016). For example, focussed mentoring sessions in which key research on behaviour management is explored and strategies identified, and collaborative observations of experienced staff are undertaken with the aim to see how the theory translates into practice and how this can be embedded into the NQT’s own practice, will be invaluable. Taking the NQT by the hand in this way will build confidence over time.
A greater emphasis might be needed on developing skills or subject knowledge. The key will be to see the potential of the NQT, and to work with them to progress to an advanced beginner stage (Dreyfus and Dreyfus, 1986). Buck (2020) suggests that mentors and coaches need to understand the importance of background or context to provide appropriate support. He highlights that the support must be carefully judged.
Developing NQTs to make the leap to become the teachers they need to be is an important focus for the autumn term. Lofthouse (2020) points out that educators and mentors must realise that the training years are the years in which teachers work on becoming just that: the teachers they need to be. Education contexts need to reimage the mentoring and coaching practices for NQTS to enable them to make effective transitions. Some NQTs might have a detailed understanding of theoretical aspects, but will now need to learn how to translate these points into practice. It is imperative to support NQTs during the recovery ‘post’-Covid-19 to become confident future teachers and leaders.
Blanchard, K., & Diaz-Ortiz, C. (2018). One minute mentoring: How to find and work with a mentor – and why you’ll benefit from being one. UK: Harper Thorsons.
Buck, A. (2020). The basic coaching method: All you need to know to coach with confidence. UK: Cadogan Press.
Department for Education [DfE]. (2019). Early careers framework. London. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-career-framework
Dreyfus H. L., & Dreyfus, S. E. (1986). Mind over machine: The power of human intuition and expertise in the age of the computer. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Lofthouse, R. (2020, June 6). Creating a legacy through practice: making an impact to build our profession. Presentation delivered at the #WomenEd & Chartered College of Teaching Early Career Teachers unconference.
Myatt, M. (2016). High challenge, low threat. Woodbridge, UK: John Catt Educational Ltd.
Starr, J. (2015). The mentoring manual: Your step by step guide to being a better mentor. UK: Pearson.