part 3 – from NQT to RQT

This is a bit new, even to me, the term RQT presumably a “Recently Qualified Teacher ( as opposed to retired, or rare, reformed, regular, revolutionary , and hopefully not yet a regretfully ..this could go on.

So with a full year (or maybe two) under the belt, what now?

1 Improve your teaching

You should be confident by now that you can sort out basic issues with learners. Like behaviour and background disruption. these are never going to go away but the mistakes of PGCE/training and even the odd error of judgment last year are put behind. By all means read, research, listen and then try new things but the basics of classroom craft should be learnt. Now ask yourself ” is there a better way to teach X or Y”. Relentlessly try to improve your teaching.

2 Improve the lot of learnerspareto_principle_improve

You have many resources, you might have a Y11 class following  their Y10 time with you and therefore new content but a majority will have been taught once. Get those reflective planners at the ready and where you put *** Must improve this if I ever do it again then…improve it. Oh you didn’t do that annotation, shame! Still revisit and re-edit and talk to experienced staff. You have tried one activity in the classroom to help learners on this unit/topic, so what else might work? Really work out what works in your classroom for different groups: SEND Gand T, PP, EAL after all you know the acronyms and know the children so sort out even better learning experiences for them. You are the true professional now…nearly.

Oh and another important matter, you have taught some of these youngsters before. You know their family a bit but you know them well, you know what they find hard or easy; a richer information than any data number – so really rock and roll in pushing their learning. It will not be easier, if anything it’s harder but it’s much much more effective teaching.

3 Keep even better records

Plan, annotate, add resourceIMG_2499s and spend a bit of time searching for new ones. Talk more with staff and pick their brains. think and plan ahead, ask around, join twitter or the TES forums and networks, get to a teachmeet. Hey throw that weight around and move from good to great!



4 Share

You felt like you were the end of the queue, and you were but you aint no more, so share your idesparkleras of what worked too. Do that in department meetings, tutor team meetings and mostly just in conversations in the staffroom. build some self confidence as a teacher professional in helping others. I had a great RQT colleague a few years ago and she showed me some new resources and ideas….yep teach the old dogs in school, new tricks.

5 Volunteer

You might have a label RQT but most pupils think you are a wise, experienced and knowledgeable member of staff. SO get stuck into some new things this year, take on a bit of responsibility that you are genuinely interested in. it could be extra curricular, sport drama music. It could be within the dept, there is plenty to do: use of data, work with EAL or SEND pupils. help with the planning of a new GCSE or a new  A Level. It might be within the pastoral work? are their seeds of your first promotion in getting to know much more about…..x, then get on with it.

6 Stimulation

The last two years had pressure now it’s you as an autonomous teacher ploughing ahead in the fields to plant in the minds of enthusiasm sat before you. What challenges do you need for yourself? Which classes have had a bit of a raw deal from you? tackle them. Check out the teacher standards, identify your weakest three areas and sort them.

7 TransparencyimageAll of us feel there were things we just about got away with, what were yours and what do you need to do about them? Did you not prepare for a parents evening but fortunately they were mainly pleasant. Did you let a pupil off but they didn’t bring any extra issues? Did the head ask for something and you forgot but heck so did she? What things must you do better?

8 Challengechallenge

Teachers can be professionally socialised by their schools. You have probably been in the same school for a this year and NQT year. There were things surprised you – the Y7 data collection came very early, you wondered why but obviously kept your mouth shut last year. Maybe you jot down a few questions like this to help improve the school. Share with an experienced colleague or even the SLT link you know best. Dont be afraid for a asking a sensible challenging question. there may be a good sensible answer but you might just have asked a really good one.

8 Keep talking

talk-clipart-RTAk5EqTLThe PGCE or training courses (remember them) have structures to support and help and encourage you. So too, NQT year BUT now you have made it to RQT and they all disappear. No more meetings about you it all becomes informal ( save number 9 below). So please keep talking to those you have found helpful or found as critical friends.



9 Performance Management

You now come under the appraisal umbrella. Chat to others about how it works, read the school documents. Do not see it as a threat, just find out what others do, prepare for you first meeting with an appraiser, who will hopefully know you well. Maybe look at what I said in 6 above and ask for some extra training in an area, or try and spend a lesson observing someone to fit the direction of travel you have set. Oh you haven’t set a direction? Shame cos in the rough and tumble of teaching if you don’t choose, the winds will blow you around.

Tuesday period 2 – #LoveChemistry, #LoveSalters’, Love Investigations

imageSo this post is about practical work in science, it’s not a review of the proposed changes to GCSE practical or those already in hand for A Level. It’s just my little world of practical work as a Chemistry teacher, and it is what I will be doing on Tuesday’s period 2 for a few weeks.

There are different types of practical work in science. When I used to plan on a scheme of work, we had various codes : PP pupil class practical; PD Pupils help in a demonstration.TD Teacher demonstration. AP assessed practical. I am so old that when I did my A levels we had science practical exams. In Chemistry this was usually a titration and mostly oxalate /permanganate ( ethanodioate/Manganate VII for the younger reader). We knew what to do, I had after all done one about a dozen times. We also had some analysis to do, a so called unknown and a few simple tests, flame tests and maybe some solubility tests to show this was Potassium Sulphate ( lilac flame, ppt with Barium Chloride). BUT oh how far we have come.

Let me tell you about my Yr 13 who have done practical Investigations now since 1994 and for a good few years of them I was also a moderator for Salters’ Chemistry. They have to choose their investigation, describe it including relevant chemical ideas and then plan the methods. In recent years we have had a new mark her for the difficulty and challenge of the topic, so if they choose an experiment we have done as an activity it scores low down. Modify the practical, use ideas beyond A Level and bring in a series of other skills and you might move to 4/5. Once planned we teachers have to mark the first sets of skills: planning, communicating, researching, risk assessments, references etc. The students work very hard, they score a full range of marks but maybe at the higher end of their grades. Why? Because they are A level chemists and quite good at this. However an Investigation means testing skills they don’t otherwise have

Mr Dexter at the RSC EIC 50th. School chemistry over 50 years

image Mr Dexter at the RSC EIC 50th sharing some differences between Chemistry in 1963 vs 3013 photographs from (c) Royal Society of Chemistry

So then we get going, usually three weeks of lessons and plenty of extra time. Students pop in during their free if staff allow, they come down at lunch or after school and we sometimes do a long twilight and Pizza. They start slowly in fact the first week I always wonder if they will make it but week two sees much progress and week three I see…experts! So now they have some results and observations to report ( and score) and they can analyse them (and score) and finally they do a decent job on what I usually think is the hardest area, evaluating what they have been through – scientifically evaluating that is, not a series of moans!imageBefore you say it cannot be assessed, I disagree the Salters’ mark schemes work. They work because back in the early 90’s teachers and boards worked together. They work because there were trials and developments. They work because there were good Chemistry teachers (who will remain nameless but you know who you are, ensuring marking and moderation worked.) but mostly they worked for being well designed, well thought out and because of the reactions we saw in our students ( not chemical reactions!!)
Why do I like Investigations?

  • It does feel as if this is what proper chemists and maybe research chemists actually do. A mix of researching methods, designing an investigation, carrying it out and persevering when it doesn’t quite do as it’s told.
  • We all learn lots of Chemistry, the students, the staff, the lab technicians but most of all the students. Even those who can just about understand concentration, dissolving, diluting etc get a much clearer understanding by doing it and by doing it AND being assessed.
  • The quality of work can be amazing. I recall in the early days of moderating seeing some truly wonderful investigations, given a relatively free rein it showed just what A level Chemists could do. they were ambitious, clever and often original. I even recall showing Professor David Waddington a project he diligently read it.’ What do you think?’ I hoped he would say it was ‘very interesting’ or’ innovative’, his reply: “probably worth a first”.
  • It’s one of the few bits of assessed work students enjoy. I know they also get stressed about the marks but if they plod on they usually enjoy the experience, usually do quite well and genuinely understand chemistry better.
  • They become mini experts. When we resume ‘normal work’ and revision they can teach their peers on kinetics, on errors, on calculations etc. I often turn to them ” tell us how you solved that”, explain how you worked ‘that’out.
  • It can inspire and motivate. In my day whenever did an A Level practical, let alone an assessed one, persuade me that Chemistry was exciting or innovative or frontier, though to be fair it showed me it was very useful. I have seen young people carry out their practical project and want a rethink on their HE choices. See n many of them get to grips with this fascinating subject in new ways.
  • It builds skills, all sorts from the practicalities of problem solving through to the softer skills of perseverance (though maybe if I say ‘Character building ‘ the politicians will listen). They also work on their own not in a pair or a group but independently – hey a bit like real Chemists?
  • It is perfectly assessable. Our students get a range of marks, from many 4/5 or 5/6 right down to 2 or 3/6. That’s a tribute to a good mark scheme, fairly properly applied, internally moderated and externally moderated. Practical work vital to my subject, should and can be assessed.
  • The hardest aspect back in the early days was researching ideas and practicals, it so often depended on getting the right books or articles, but what a great opportunity to raid the ASE and RSC cupboards. Now of course we can go on the internet. AND sure I know that’s why some people feel the whole of practical work can be cheating but really – have you ever met Chemicals?
  • No one gets a practice. You can’t do a four week project twice, you can’t rehearse, you can’t spend weeks researching and planning and then change your mind. It’s a good test!

imageAnd if Investigations ( let alone practical work) disappear?

I, for one , will be sad, I can’t think any other assessment building skills, showing off Chemistry, motivating and contributing to the student learning experience. ( although I do know learning for an ordinary test or exam does concentrate the mind). Maybe we can still do them, say the end of Y12 (Oh No) the skills won’t be quite so well developed and hey the AS is gone or going or something. Maybe we can do a mini project (Oh No)– you need four weeks, is there really that much spare time or are we refilled with extra content in the new world? Maybe there is after school, the Chemistry club – Oh No – how disappointing that something which should be done in lessons is reduced to ‘after school’ or ‘ in the holidays’.

If you are an examiner, assesor, moderator reading this, don’t worry we Chemistry teachers will make whatever yuou give us work, its what we do, but me, I am still allowed to mourn.

I never did an Investigation when I was at school, and it never did me any harm. I didn’t do one in my three years as an undergraduate maybe that didn’t do me any harm, but I did a part II whole year of research which I adored. That was back in the day without the resources we have now, I think I’ll just be that sad old Chemistry teacher…..”oh in my day”

My plea, please don’t throw out the baby with the waterbathimage

You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.


9YBA Head of Year

imageimageIn many schools pastoral work has taken a new twist as tutor groups are arranged vertically with a few pupils from each year. I cant really comment on that , others might by clicking reply. My experience is in schools with horizontal pastoral work, tutors caring for a tutor group of 25+ pupils and a Head of year possibly an assistant head of year working with them. So this short post is to give a few reasons you might consider this middle leader role:

imagePastoral experience is useful if not essential for senior leadership posts and hey a Head of Year role brings a TLR, more money and a title. Unlike a Head of department you will almost certainly get an office, in my school that is usually a converted wardrobe/cupboard with enough room for a computer, a desk, a filing cabinet, a box of tissues, a notepad, a phone and second chair. In some ways that sums up the role of HoY

If middle leaders subject staff are the engine room of a school this role is the engine oil keeping the school running smoothly. You will be expected to help monitor and to intervene in behaviour issues, attendance issues and a broader view of pupils achievement. These aspects lead you into a new understanding of the background of your pupils and definitely a greater understanding of subjects and staff. our Heads of year are actually called Progress Co-ordinators which I think is a bit clumsy but sums up the expectation.

One way or another there are simple things you can nip in the bud, but soon issues will bring a level of complexity. HoY are expected to intervene, to work to improve attendance, punctuality, performances and to do so without a magic wand. It’s about wisdom, experience, problem solving, oh and infinite patience.

It’s sometimes complicated.
Lets consider punctuality, some pupils are just lazy and late and a HoY can sort this either directly with the pupil or by speaking with home and a balance of discipline and reward. However some lateness is more difficult, dropping off a younger sibling at a local primary, caring for an ill family member. So what the HoY begins to notice is the complexity of family life and what some young people face from home. You’ll be surprised how an appropriate conversation can actually improve matters.

Top negotiator
imageGreat training to be a diplomat or peace keeper. HoY sometimes have to advocate on pupils behalf, see them through a rough patch, and get work sent home and check they settle back in on return, and don’t forget them, Try and note or remember a significant anniversary. Sometimes a teacher complains and there is another side. Sometimes a parent has heard one side (!) and wants to tell you so

Bridge back?
IMG_6254Sometimes the HoY has to help reintegrate pupils after incidents, maybe from being withdrawn from lessons or back from exclusion. Staff will be watching, other pupils too, as a HoY maintains some sort of bridge back into the school community, not at any cost but trying to ensure the issue is sorted and of course the issue does not raise itself again. Learn from senior staff.

One of the most rewarding tasks is too help see a pupil “turn the corner” it might be a report card, it might be a conversation where a colleague tells you how well X is now doing. It might be a successful way to help a parent with a challenging child. Working that team to success is very rewarding.

imageNever underestimate the letter home, the positive call home, the quiet word on a corridor to say you’ve heard how well… But you might have to seek that out. A proper scheme of merits or a reward system can help and if you get it right enjoy the rare staff confessional “your new rewards – that is really working well”

Setting standards
I think effective HoY set out their expectations and those of the school clearly and keep referring to it over the year. Assemblies, gatherings individual conversations. Scanning reports and data, maybe the rank order of effort for your year group is compared at each report and you seek out those who climb and …well, yes decide what to do about those who fall.

The go betweenyellow cardred cardpng
In particular parent – pupil. When a parent is worried they are likely to contact you, when you have a concern you contact them. You sometimes have meetings with parents and might actually chair the meeting between a colleague and parent and pupil. You will learn a lot but observe how experienced staff do that. There will be formal meetings too like parents evenings , you’ll prob get a bit of extra stuff to follow up from them. Oh and of course there are very difficult meetings with parents, observe and learn.

Running a team
Your tutor team unlike the subject staff you probably didn’t choose them, you have some you are pleased to see on your list and you have others. There is the pastoral work and in many ways the standards of behaviour uniform and so on at least set out clear expectations and get tutor support and support them when they crash into issues. You might have a bit of pastoral curriculum (PSE /PSHE) to plan and this is a big challenge, prepping a topic for others to use. Plan carefully, look for big impact and get the feedback, above all show gratitude.

Dealing with SLT
Inevitably as a HoY you need some help some coaching and some ideas. I recall thinking myself that I had seen every situation a pupil might encounter after about 15 years in the job, and then around the corner would be an issue I had never dealt with. You need wisdom and help but also sometimes need their support. A good relationship with your line manager eg your Head of school is critical but nothing better than solving a tricky issue between you.

Dealing with agencies.
A host of outside agencies look to a HoY to help on a host of issues, from looked after children, through children’s services to support agencies possibly the police. Learn the proper protocols, systems and statutes.You will learn how some are really good and others surprisingly poor. However they performed you still see a pupil every day and therefore might be the most important part of a jigsaw in their life. Try never to forget that some pupils have complicated lives and perhaps we should be kind.

imageKeeping a perspective
Be prepared – some colleagues will think you are too soft, that cup of tea in your office after Rudolph did that; others will be the opposite and think you were ridiculously harsh to force the detention over that so called trivial event. So sure sometimes you can’t win but you are the reality of loco parent is and tough love needs mixing up with the bridge back.

Advice and help
Pupils will come to you for advice maybe careers maybe personal. After all you it was you who actually said if they had any problems to come and talk to you, but you just didn’t think they would talk to you about that! Listen, listen a bit more and then help, just that and if you can’t help it’s fine just be prepared, like we always should be, to pass it on.Help Support Advice Assistance and Guidance on a signpost

Ultimately the success of a number of pupils is definitely down to the pastoral system of which they hoy is the critical position. Knowing your pupils and families. This job is about relationships relationships relationships and a frequent stepping stone into more senior roles in school.

Nice blogpost reflecting on this role from Andy Lewis.