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My First Year as a Teacher

A bit of background before I begin…
I first wrote a blog for Nexus back in October of last year about my struggle as a NQT to find a job (you can read that here if you haven’t already:
At the time, I had just secured my first NQT post after months of uncertainty, disappointment and growing anxiety that I would never find it. 
Ten months on, I am preparing to return to my fantastic school as a soon-to-be RQT and welcoming a whole new class of children into my Year 4 classroom…and I couldn’t be more excited! I had an absolute whirlwind of a time as an NQT (we had OFSTED in the week before Christmas and a global pandemic by March!) but I loved every minute of it. It was definitely a learning curve moving to online and remote teaching! I know that Covid has put a stopper on a lot of people’s plans (myself included) and that there are a whole host of extra precautions we have to be prepared for in September, but I just can’t wait to get back into the classroom and continue doing what I love to do. 

However, I know that not everyone is in my situation. I have spoken to a number of newly qualified teachers who graduated this summer and haven’t yet secured that coveted NQT position. The primary teacher job market can be hard enough at times without the added pressure from Covid and its repercussions. It seemed to me that this year there was a vicious cycle: people weren’t leaving jobs because there were no jobs, but there were no jobs because people weren’t leaving (and round it goes). For those looking for their first foot in the door to the teaching profession, it definitely has been more challenging this year. 
As we prepare to return in September, I know lots of NQTs will be signing up to supply agencies (I did this last year myself). Supply can be a mixed bag: while you get experience in different year groups and schools, it can be quiet for days or weeks where there is no work, and a consistent and reliable income is hard to find. I found that the first few weeks especially were quite quiet, and I expect that to be the same (if not more so) this year. Schools need to keep to government guidance as much as possible, so things like trips out and visitors in have to be carefully considered in terms of bubbles and cross-contamination. External courses and conferences seem to be almost non-existent for the foreseeable, with providers moving towards online courses that can be accessed at any time. My advice here for an NQT is be realistic – you will likely not book weeks and weeks of work right away. Be prepared, be enthusiastic, but be realistic. 
I appreciate this all sounds fairly negative so far, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Those teachers who might have left the profession this year (but didn’t) may well decide to hand in their resignation early in the academic year, meaning a few more posts might pop up between September and January. The fallout from the pandemic might also mean that more teachers decide to take early retirement or leave to care for or spend more time with loved ones. Maternity cover posts are also always popping up, so keep an eye out for those. Schools are also being granted additional Covid ‘catch-up’ funding – this may mean the creation of more teaching roles or more teaching assistant roles (although it’s important to note that schools can decide how to spend this funding and this may not be the case everywhere, this is just a hypothetical situation).   
My advice for NQTs in this position remains the same: there is a school (and a job) out there for everyone – don’t stop applying just because right now it seems hopeless! If I had done that, I would have never found my school. My top 3 tips for applicants are:

  • Consider widening your search area. My school run is only 10 minutes (15 with heavy traffic) but I have to go through a toll, which is why I wouldn’t have initially considered it in my search. At first, I thought this was going to be a huge pain, but now I don’t have to go through any congested city traffic and the money I save on petrol pays for my toll fare, so it’s not a problem at all. 
  • Make sure that your job application is tailored to the school. Schools get hundreds of applications for each post, so they need to know that the shortlisted candidates really care about the position and the school they are applying for. While school visits may be off the cards for a while, see if you can phone the school for a quick chat about their ethos, or check their website. Schools will usually have their ethos and vision statement on the front page, and those principles are what they’re looking for in an application. 
  • In your application, really sell yourself! This is your chance to tell the school exactly what you’ve done and how it impacted on your practice. If you took on extra responsibilities, such as a club, during placement, mention it! If you have a special skill (such as languages or sports) that could be a positive addition to the school, make sure to get that across. All of these little things will make your application stand out from a crowd. 

Remember, you will get there!

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The author

Emily qualified as a teacher in July 2019 and spent some time working on supply before finally getting a job as a Year 4 teacher in a two-form entry school. Her specialism in school is science but she has a passion for enquiry that drives her teaching across subjects. As an NQT, Emily is particularly interested in looking at pupil-led learning and how a positive approach to classroom environment is the key to unlocking the potential in every child. Emily is currently based in the North East of England. When she’s not teaching, Emily is often found working her way through the multitude of brunch spots in Newcastle. To follow her teaching and learning journey as an NQT, follow her on Twitter @missemccabe.

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