Starting a new career as a teacher, lecturer or education professional can bring with it a lot of questions.

Find the answers you need using our:

See Government's guidance to help schools and newly qualified teachers (NQTs) prepare for NQT induction from September 2020.

For more general help and advice, browse our help and advice A-Z or take a look at our top five frequently asked questions.

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Frequently asked questions

  • What level of support should I receive from my mentor?

    First of all, there is no specific and consistent job description that applies to the role of a mentor and the word is often used to describe many different roles. Sometimes a person who is called a mentor may not even really understand the extent of the responsibilities it implies.

    You will have a mentor during your placement as a student. Newly qualified teachers will be assigned an induction tutor for the duration of their induction to provide day-to-day monitoring and support, and they will probably undertake most of the teaching observations and review progress, with some schools also assigning mentors as a source of additional personal support.

  • What can I do if I feel my mentor is not giving me sufficient support?

    As a trainee if you feel you are not being given adequate support, speak to both your HEI tutor and/or the most senior person responsible for initial teacher training and student teachers in your school as early as possible.

    If you are newly qualified and have concerns about the level of support you receive, it is also important that you raise any concerns early. However, we appreciate that you may find this difficult, and the National Education Union can provide advice and support on how to raise your concerns.

  • Is it acceptable to comfort a distressed student by putting an arm around them?

    Be extremely cautious when comforting a distressed student with physical contact. Do read, and act in accordance with, any policies the school or college has on this issue. If comforting is necessary (for example if a child is crying uncontrollably), comfort them until their immediate needs are met and cease as soon as they are calm.

    Physical comfort should not be given in private and it is generally considered appropriate only for younger children.

    Always avoid any contact with a student that could be misconstrued or cause offence.

  • Should one-to-one contact be avoided?

    It is unrealistic for teachers and lecturers to always avoid being alone with students. In some situations (such as music lessons) one-to-one teaching is entirely normal. However, misunderstandings can more easily occur, so be mindful of these general precautions:

    • Notification: colleagues (or, where appropriate, the student's parent/guardian) should, wherever possible, be aware in advance of the lesson or meeting.
    • Location and environment: where possible, avoid locations that could appear clandestine, such as remote areas, closed or locked doors and rooms without windows. Where appropriate, talk to the student with a desk between you, or arrange the environment to avoid unnecessary physical contact.
    • Contact: avoid physical contact unless strictly necessary and, if it is (or becomes) necessary, studiously avoid any contact which could be misconstrued as sexual.
    • Reporting: if a student becomes emotional or distressed during a one-to-one lesson or meeting, report this promptly and discreetly to a senior colleague.
  • How should I deal with confidential information from students?

    Teachers and lecturers are not legally obliged to inform parents or guardians automatically of confidential disclosures by students (e.g concerning their emotional lives). In accordance with the Gillick judgement and the principles of the Children Act 1989, teachers and lecturers are entitled to make reasonable professional judgements on this issue, recognising that young people are entitled to more control over matters affecting them as they mature.

    Schools and colleges should have a policy on confidentiality and you should act in accordance with it. If the matter is highly sensitive, it is appropriate for you to discuss the confidential information with a senior colleague. Remember to inform the student concerned if you decide you have to pass on their confidential disclosure to another person.

  • Am I entitled to refuse to teach a disruptive student?

    No. Teachers and lecturers have no formal right to refuse to teach a student. To do so is, strictly speaking, industrial action (which is subject to detailed rules on balloting, notice, etc). Refusal to teach is therefore an 'industrial action' weapon to be used only as a last resort, with careful advice from the National Education Union. A headteacher/principal does have the power to exclude violent or seriously disruptive students, either for a fixed period or permanently (subject to the student's right to appeal).

  • What sanctions do teachers and lecturers have to discipline students?

    Classroom behaviour and discipline are perennial concerns, but are often a major worry for those new to teaching. The school or college should have a behaviour and discipline policy that states clearly what sanctions are available and who has the power to impose them.

    Trainee and newly qualified teachers and lecturers should clarify what authority they have to impose punishments, and if there are circumstances in which they must refer an issue to a senior colleague.

    The school or college should publish an escalating system of sanctions, usually ranging from removal from classes, loss of privileges (such as having to stay in at break times), reporting to senior staff, contact with parents/guardians, being placed on 'report' and behaviour 'contracts', through to temporary or ultimately permanent exclusions.

    When it comes to exclusions, only the headteacher/principal can exclude a student from school or college and she/he must observe a procedure when doing so.

    Detentions can be imposed only when this is 'reasonable in all the circumstances'.

  • Am I entitled to physically restrain a student?

    The Education and Inspections Act 2006 enables staff in all schools to use reasonable force to prevent students from hurting themselves or others, from damaging property or from causing disorder. The use of force has two main purposes: to control students or to restrain them.

    All schools should have a policy about the use of force to control or restrain students, which you should familiarise yourself with.

    Always try to keep calm and consider your own safety. As soon as the incident is over, record exactly what happened with a senior member of staff. 

  • What is my position if an accident happens in my class?

    Schools and colleges have a duty to provide appropriate support and training to trainee teachers and lecturers to minimise the risk of accidents. However, even if you are still in training, you have the same obligation as qualified teachers and lecturers to take reasonable care of students.

    This is often explained as the care a reasonable parent would exercise, taking account of the numbers, ages, abilities and any special educational and/or medical needs, and the usual standard of behaviour of the students, the location and the risks associated with the activity taking place.

    Do check and act in accordance with any policies on this issue.

    If an accident does occur, first aid should be called for if necessary and a record made in the school or college accident book as soon as possible. 

    Keep copies of any accident reports or statements made, since they can be relevant to any subsequent claim for compensation. Fortunately, such claims are almost invariably pursued against the employer (and their insurers) rather than against the individual teacher or lecturer.

    In the (most unlikely) event of a claim being raised against a member for an accident to a student, get in contact with the National Education Union.

  • Am I responsible for the safety of students if I take them away from the school or college site?

    The educational and social value of trips makes such activity an essential part of learning. Nevertheless, a series of high profile incidents plus health and safety requirements have understandably heightened fears about liability and negligence.

    Teachers or lecturers taking students on trips or visits have an obligation to take reasonable care of them – taking account of the students' ages, aptitudes, any special educational and/or medical needs, the risks associated with the activity and the environment concerned, which should be considered in the risk assessment(s).

    You should follow the school/college procedures for off-site activities. If an accident happens, any claim for compensation is highly likely to be brought against the employer, who is vicariously liable for the actions and omissions of its employees.

  • What should I do if furniture needs to be moved in a classroom?

    Unfortunately, manual handling operations – lifting, carrying, pushing or moving a heavy object or person by hand or bodily force – are a major source of injury at work. Lifting anything even moderately heavy in the wrong way can result in strain or injury, especially to the back – one of the main causes of sickness absence.

    We advise you to exercise caution and to avoid lifting or manoeuvring heavy or awkwardly shaped loads, such as desks or filing cabinets.

    Any injury should be recorded promptly in the accident book and you should retain a copy of it.

  • As a newly qualified teacher, what should I do if I am unwell and can't get to work?

    Newly qualified teachers in maintained schools in England and Wales are entitled to full pay for 25 working days of sick leave and, after completing four calendar months' service, half pay for 50 additional days. These entitlements increase with years in service.

    If you are working in an academy, free school or independent school, you will need to check your contract to see what sick leave you are entitled to.

    You are entitled to self-certificate for seven calendar days of absence due to ill health. This means that you don't need to obtain a sickness absence certificate. If you are ill for more than seven calendar days, you will need to give your headteacher a 'fit note' (normally obtained from your GP), stating the reason for your absence and the projected duration of sick leave.

    The school should have a sickness absence policy that outlines procedures for sick leave. Keep your headteacher informed whenever you suffer illness that requires sick leave. Always ring the school as soon as you know you will not be able to attend, or, if you cannot, arrange for someone to call on your behalf. The reason for your absence should be treated as confidential by your headteacher.

    If you feel able to suggest work for your class(es) this will be appreciated but you are not under any obligation to do this. Many schools have contingency plans in place in the event of staff sickness.

  • What should I do if I suspect child abuse?

    All teachers owe a duty of care to their students and colleagues. An important aspect of this duty is to take reasonable steps to safeguard and promote students' health, safety and welfare. This is particularly important in the area of child protection; all children have the right to protection from abuse and exploitation.

    Find out what the procedures are for dealing with suspected abuse, and follow these. As soon as you suspect neglect or any form of abuse, talk to the designated teacher with responsibility for child protection. Do not wait to gather more evidence of abuse; it is always better to act sooner rather than later.

  • As a student, if my school or college undergoes an inspection, will my lessons be observed by inspectors?

    Inspections tend to be brief and tightly focused, and inspectors will discuss with a headteacher which lessons they need to see to get a picture of the school or college.

    If an inspector should find themselves with a student teacher, they will apply their criteria with regard to the experience and training of the teacher or lecturer being observed. Whether you are a student or not, you are entitled to feedback and this should be given with sensitivity to status.

  • As a student, if I'm observing a teacher or lecturer working with a class I will eventually take over and the class is not behaving as I would wish, should I intervene?

    The National Education Union would advise you not to intervene. On occasions like this, you are present to observe, learn and note. However, you should definitely discuss what you observed with the teacher afterwards to establish how much of what you saw was actually noticed, and the reasons why the teacher managed the class that way.

  • What can I expect in terms of observation as a newly qualified teacher?

    Newly qualified teachers can expect to be observed at regular intervals throughout the induction period, and you should meet with your reviewer to review the teaching that has been observed. Observations should be carried out in a supportive fashion with professionalism, integrity and courtesy; be evaluated objectively and reported accurately and fairly; and take account of the particular circumstances that may affect performance on the day.

  • How will the early career framework (ECF) affect me?

    The Early Career Framework (ECF) is a new two-year, mentor-led package of support that is in early rollout phase this academic year and is due for national rollout in September 2021. The DfE guidance on this can be found here.

    Next September will mark a change to the induction period, as it increases from 1 to 2 years, for NQTs starting their induction from this September onwards. Teachers participating in the early rollout this year have access to the support package but their induction will be completed in one year. The NEU expects the ECF to be a supportive measure, allowing NQTs more time to show they fully meet the standards, as well as giving structured support from a programme that aims to begin a career-long habit of learning and mentoring. 

    Materials from the early rollout have been made available to all this year, to help support NQTs, and can be accessed at the DfE link above. 

    Under the full programme, second year teachers will get a 5% PPA enhancement. 

    Legislation is due to be laid before Parliament in the new year, and arrangements put in place by the providers of the national rollout. 

    As part of the recruitment and retention strategy, the DfE also introduces three new National Professional Qualifications - which replace the middle leader NPQ – focusing on behaviour, leading teaching and teacher development.

  • I am an NQT in a primary school and have been told that I'm at risk of failing the year already. I've struggled with teaching online and feel I'm not getting the same support as I would have in a normal year. What can I do now? 

    As you have been told you are at risk of failing your induction year already, you should contact your local branch secretary or the Advice Line as soon as possible, so a caseworker to assist you and discuss your individual situation in more detail.

    After you have contacted the branch or Advice Line, you should also contact your appropriate body and discuss with them why you feel you have not received the support you would have in a normal year.  They will be able to review support provided to date and discuss with both yourself, your NEU rep and your school how appropriate the support has been and what additional support could be put in place to help you meet the teachers’ standards and pass the induction year.  They may also be able to give an indication as to whether they believe your individual circumstances may result in a recommendation for an extension.

    In addition to having a recommendation for an extension based on the reports from your school and the appropriate body, there are other factors that can make NQTs automatically qualify for additional time, such as ad hoc absences of up to 30 days during the induction year, although this does not include Covid related absences. However, the DfE does encourage appropriate bodies to exercise discretion and recommend an extension where they feel NQTs have not met the teachers’ standards, due to Covid related absences. Find out more here.

    If, following discussions with your school and appropriate body, it appears that they do feel you have been provided with sufficient support and will not meet the teachers’ standards, you can ask your NEU representative to help negotiate an early exit from your school before the induction year comes to an end. This will allow you to ‘bank’ some days in your induction year and complete it later date, (if you are an overseas trained teacher this must be completed within five years of obtaining QTS).  During the time you are not completing your induction year, you can carry out supply work in various schools and develop your skills to meet the teachers’ standards.  You must ensure that when carrying out supply work during this time you do not compete a full term in any post for it to count towards induction.  Further information can be found in the induction guidance.

    If a decision to defer completing your induction year is made, please do be aware that from September 2021 the Early Career Framework will be introduced, with an induction of 2 years (6 terms).  This means that if you have one term remaining to complete induction, you would have until the end of 2022/23 to complete the term as part of a one-year induction.  From September 2023, you would be required to complete 6 terms of induction; with two terms already completed you would have another four to do.  Find out more about the ECF here

Cover shot of Sec Ed ECF supplement

SecEd supplement

This June 2021 supplement sponsored by the NEU, focuses on the Early Career Framework and how the new two-year induction period will work as well as your entitlements and rights.

It also offers advice on CPD, wellbeing and general good practice for new teachers and looks at effective mentoring.

Student and NQT webinars

To help you prepare for your teaching career, the NEU run a range of webinars aimed specifically at students and NQTs to give you the confidence and skills in the classroom you need.

All the webinars are free but you must be a member to access them. Membership is free to students and only £1 for NQTs. Find out more here.

Stay informed with Tes magazine

Newly qualified teachers are entitled to an exclusive offer with Tes magazine. Members can gain unlimited access to the latest education thinking, current teaching discussions and teacher-led innovation. Also find top tips for lesson planning, CPD training and sharing of best practice to help with your first year in teaching. Quarterly subscriptions: digital only for £10 and print and digital for £25 Subscribe now by emailing or phone 020 3194 3164 (Please quote your NEU membership number for reference) Offer ends 31 July

Advice and tips

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  • Advice Graphical representation of Covid-19
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    To aid with their continued professional development Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) have slightly different working conditions to other teachers.

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    As an NQT you are a qualified teacher on induction. You will probably be teaching many more face to face hours than you did during your training.

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    Classroom observations of NQTs

    What to expect from classroom observations as a trainee teacher, including feedback, professional reviews and formal assessment meetings.

  • Advice Primary school girl explaining her work to her teacher
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    Advice for trainees on managing behaviour in the classroom, including physical and social contact and infatuations.

Key publications

  • Filling in a Coloring Book Advice
    School Direct trainee teachers

    The National Education Union has produced this 22-point checklist as a guide for School Direct trainee teachers setting out the minimum expectations for their teacher training year.