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How to support your new teachers

woman-smiling-at-womankike-agunbiadeFour ideas for ensuring your new teachers will still be with you at the end of the year, from Kike Agunbiade, SSAT Senior Education Lead…

As the days become shorter and winter sets in, every member of the school community has begun to – or already has – drawn conclusions about their colleagues. Teachers have the measure of their students’ prior knowledge, behaviours and motivators.

Similarly, parents are beginning to find out which teachers their children think are great, which ones are strict and which subjects they are most excited about. It is really the time for formative assessment. Getting a handle on those around you and forming initial impressions.

One of the most essential groups of the school community that it is worth ensuring are ok at this time of year are teachers who are new to the school, especially, trainee and NQT teachers who are new to the profession. It’s a group that some schools don’t give enough attention. To ensure these teachers progress as fast as possible – and stay in your school – now is the time to check in with them.

Having worked with trainee teachers and NQTs across many schools for a number of years, I offer my top tips of things to do:

1. Check the levels of support they are getting. There are a number of ways of doing this. You might want to do a survey of them if you have a number of new starters such as a Gallup Q12 questionnaire, which is quite quick but should give you some indicators as to whether they have the key things required to be successful. It’s also worth asking them about their workload. We all know that the first few weeks in a new job, particularly in teaching, come with a crazy workload. But their attitude towards this is a useful indicator. If they are struggling with time management and trying too hard to be perfectionist, then this might suggest that their mental health might be in jeopardy later in the year.

2. Know their strengths and weaknesses, and make sure they have a complementary buddy. You may already know their strengths and areas for development from their performance during recruitment, but now is a great time to pull together the performance profiles of all new teachers in the school. This may be doable within your performance management system, but if your trainee teachers’ observations and targets sit outside of this system then drawing them together may help you see how you could create peer relationships between early career teachers that are non-threating and help them to develop.

3. Capture their first impressions of the school – as people who aren’t familiar with ‘how it’s always been done’ they may have some valuable insights on the culture and practices of the school that those who have been around for a while assume are perfectly normal. Obviously, this needs to be handled sensitively as the last thing you want is to set them against their colleagues as instigators of change which makes existing teachers feel threatened. However, if they feel their opinions are valued then it will really help with retention.

4. Find out their long-term aspirations. It may seem too early to be thinking about staffing for next year, but if you don’t already know what their long-term aspirations are, then finding out now and bearing them in mind for the opportunities which might come up later in the year or next year is really important. With so many teachers leaving the profession, one of the keys to hanging on to people is to tell them they are wanted and invest in their professional development.

We recently finished our hugely popular 14-piece series for new teachers – read here.

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