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Being an NQT Mentor

Have you got a new role as NQT mentor this year?

Mr T’s NQT Support shares his top 12 tips to help you support your NQTs.

This blog would also help those already mentoring and NQTs.

I remember being offered this position. 6 years into my career.  I was excited to get into the role, but had no idea where to start.  I had some training from my Local Authority about the basics, but the rest was on me.  
I will share with you my 12 top tips based on my experiences to help support anyone else who is in this privileged position.
1. Get to know your Mentee – Spend time getting to know your mentee as a person.  It helps build a relationship that allows you to have challenging conversations but know that there is a relationship based on support.  I think NQTs are naturally mistrusting of their mentors as they see them as the person who will judge them.  They are correct you will be judging them when you submit their reports about progress towards the Teachers’ Standards. However you are also their greatest source of support and you need to have a relationship where they can tell you if they are about to fall on their face, so that you can catch them before they hit the ground. It is always easy to stop someone falling than it is to scoop them up off the ground.
2. Listen, I mean really listen – As a school we were all trained in Structured Conversations as part of our Achievement for All status. It really helped me to tune in to what NQTs were saying and being confident to paraphrase it back to check I had interpreted them correctly. 9 times out of 10 I had, but on occasion, there was something more serious underlying that I had missed that they had the opportunity to clarify to help find a way forward. This also implies you have time
3. Involve them in their year – I am hoping this will be a teaching granny to suck eggs moment, but I have learnt never to assume.  You will have a clear idea of next steps for the NQTs based upon what you have seen, however that can sometimes be a snapshot, it is not always what is concerning them the most day to day.  Construct the targets together and make sure they are clear and understood by the NQT.  I used to set half termly targets – some were met in that time frame, some weren’t and were then extended.  I always made sure they were clearly linked to the Teachers’ Standards and had a clear acknowledgement of what the school would do to support them in meeting the target.

NQT Induction Plan 
Action to be takenTeachers’ StandardDate to be completed bySuccess CriteriaSupport neededOutcome of the action

4. Observe them in something they feel confident in the first time – NQTs will be used to observations, but they will still get nervous.  The first observation, I always wanted them to feel confident with what they were delivering and for me it gave me a baseline, an opportunity to see how they managed the children, how were the relationships in the room, how were their explanations and could they structure learning.  This was the first time I’d ever seen a proper lesson and I want to get a good feel for the basics.  After the observation I will always ask – If you were to teach that lesson again what would you keep the same and tell me one thing you would change.  This started with a positive and also gave me a good understanding as to whether they could reflect accurately about what had happened. At the end of the feedback we wrote down 3 statements – a strength I saw, a strength they identified and an agreed action point to move things forward.  
5. Know the statutory documents – These are the induction guidance and the Rights to appeal  documents.  Also share these with the NQT on your first meeting.  I always reassure them that I have never needed to use the rights to appeal.  But it is important that they know it exists.
6. Make friends with your contact at the Appropriate Body – There will be a named contact and being friends with this person will save you a lot of headaches. I had a great working relationship with mine and would often ring to find out the answer to questions and she was always happy to signpost what I did to others who were working with NQTs.  I even ended up influencing the way they structured their report framework with the way I always presented mine.

1.1 Strengths
Areas to DevelopSupport

7. Be honest – whether you are writing a report or giving feedback. You don’t have to be mean, but don’t be afraid to say when things are going wrong, or that there is something that needs addressing.  What you don’t want is to be in the position, where they think everything is rosy and then they are shocked to receive a report that identifies them as being at risk of not meeting the standards. As long as you identify what support is going to be given, then it will be a positive process.
8. Keep a log of everything – I always had an A4 lined exercise book for each of my NQTs.  It contained all the documentation for the year – observations, reports, targets, reviews, but it also gave me a space to record difficult conversations and to note down key incidents.  At times I would even ask NQTs to sign at the end of what I had recorded to ensure it was an accurate view.  This would avoid any issues down the line particularly if it were to ever become an issue where the NQT might not meet the standards
9. Know when to coach and when to mentor – Sometimes NQTs need to get there on their own, they need to take risks (and I always encouraged them to do this) and make mistakes and need you to be there just as a sounding board asking the right questions to help them identify their own course of action (Coaching). However, there are those times, when safeguarding students or the NQT become an issue and that more knowledgeable other can tell them exactly what they need to know and how to get back on track (Mentoring).  Flitting between the 2 during some conversations can be tricky, but by utilising both well, you can provide clear guidance and let the NQT have a clear feeling of ownership and empowerment.
10. Don’t overload NQT time – I always planned NQT time with my NQTs, in a typical half term there would usually be one external CPD course provided by the appropriate body, One for us to set and review targets, one  where they would organise to go and see another member of the school to support their own development, and hopefully one for them to go and see another setting.  The others were left clear for us to meet, or for them just to catch their breath and catch up on the day today things. Remember being an NQT is tough, sometimes an afternoon just to do class admin can be the best support you can offer. 
11. Make time for your NQTS-  I was in a hugely fortunate position where I had the same release time as my NQTs, at one point I had 4 NQTs across a school and being able to give time to each of them would have been a challenge without this release time.  But making time available, planned time, not just a how’s it going on a random Tuesday lunchtime (although this is also important) is invaluable to making sure NQTs have a clear time they know you are free and that they will be your sole focus for that time. It may also avoid lots of random drop ins as those less important things they can jot down and save the for that meeting. 
12. Keep a box of tissues – I have mentored 18 NQTS in my time and all but 1 has cried on me at some point. Sometimes about personal things that are affecting them. Sometimes about the job.  It will happen, tell them it will happen and reassure them that it is ok.  Crying shows they care and are passionate about what they are doing and want to do a good job. (That is why the one didn’t cry)   
It has truly been my favourite part of my role in schools, Congratulations on being an NQT mentor, enjoy it!

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The author

Mr T of @MrTs_NQTs has been an NQT mentor for the past 10 years and has mentored 16 NQTs during that time. These NQTs have ranged in their abilities but have all been supported to make them the best teacher that they can be, drawing on their individual strengths and personalities. He is currently seeking to support a wider range of teachers in their early career through his twitter feed and continue to support as many teachers as he can to achieve what they are truly capable of.

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