It is important to recognise that workload is an issue for all teachers and NQTs particularly should be supported to begin their careers in a way in which is sustainable. Schools and governing bodies should have due regard to the workload of staff, for leaders, teachers and support staff. It is very easy when you start a new job, to take on extra duties and responsibilities when they are offered or asked of you.
It is unfair of your school to put additional stress on an NQT in this crucial year. Your head of department or year group should ensure that you are not burdened in this way. And you should speak to your named NQT mentor if you feel you are being put upon or have taken on too much. If you are in doubt, contact your union advice service, or speak to the union rep in your workplace.
It is best practice not to use NQTs for cover wherever this is avoidable, as your time is far better spent on your own work and lesson planning. No teacher should be asked to undertake administration work that is not directly linked to their own teaching or classes, and routine tasks such as photocopying should be kept to a minimum. Most schools encourage teachers to make use of digital media to avoid the need for large-scale photocopying.
No teacher should be asked to invigilate exams. As a rule of thumb, any activity that does not require the teacher’s professional skills or judgment, should not be asked of you. If you do need to cover for an absent colleague in rare circumstances, you should not be expected to plan or assess work done by pupils in those lessons.
Some schools actively encourage their staff to leave the classroom at a reasonable hour after the teaching day has finished, while some have a culture of presenteeism. Everyone knows teachers work outside of school, often late into the evening but teachers often feel the pressure to stay at school until late into the evening or not be the first to leave. The head teacher and other leaders in a school create this culture and many are working hard to cut workload and improve wellbeing for their staff. If you are worried about the expectations on you in your workplace, speak to your workplace rep or union advice service.
The DfE has recognised that workload is an issue in the recruitment and retention of teachers nationally, and promotes its Workload reduction Toolkit to help schools reduce unnecessary burdens on teachers, particularly in data collection, marking and meetings. The NEU is clear that there is still much work to be done on improving this situation.
It’s vital that you know your statutory duties as a teacher, especially regarding safeguarding. Your school should ensure you have the relevant policies - always talk to your mentor if you are unsure about something. You should be told who the designated safeguarding lead (DSL) in the school is and how you report concerns.
Don’t worry about wasting time by reporting small concerns; report everything and the DSL will decide how to respond. You’ll have discussed this in general terms during teacher training but ensure you understand what the school expects of you. You can contact your union for advice if you are worried about anything.
As an NQT, you will be observed yourself more than most other teachers. This is normal, but the plan and schedule of observations should be discussed and agreed by you and your mentor. Excessive unannounced observations, even if well-meant, are not helpful. There should be time made available for you to discuss observations with the observer and/or your mentor, so that they are of use to your professional practice. These should always be two-way conversations so that you can reflect, not just be told how it went.
Induction should be a supportive process, helping you develop your professional confidence and competence. You’ll have many questions and concerns as the year passes - so the NEU offers advice on a range of issues affecting NQTs at new teachers.
Your mentor should always be supportive of your development and help you understand how to meet the necessary standards. They should observe your teaching, and you should be able to observe them and other teachers. Schools with a supportive culture of peer observation give their staff an invaluable opportunity to develop their practice, so make the most of it. You can develop your own approach and style by watching how other teachers question pupils, use paired and group work and use pupils’ work in the lesson to move learning forward. Reflect on these observations as well as your own lessons; ask yourself how these things worked and how they could be developed.
Ensuring you are well-organised and have time for yourself to pursue outside interests and to relax is crucial to making your teaching career successful, rewarding and sustainable.