Not just surviving, but thriving in your NQT year

Gone are the days where all of your trainee peers secure full time contracts by the time they have finished their initial teacher training (it’s certainly a different landscape to when I qualified in 2002). I am having more and more conversations with people entering the profession who are unsure about their immediate and long term future. With more people moving to teaching from other careers (as opposed to the more traditional post graduate route) and often with families to support, it can be quite an unsettling time. This may not make you feel any better, but I spotted this quote on Twitter via @growthmindset1



In a recent conversion with a (nearly) Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT), I was asked to consider what advice I would give for their first year in post. They have a one year fixed term contract as cover for maternity leave. This post is aimed less at surviving their first year, more about preparing them to be an attractive appointment for a school in one year’s time. Continue reading



Every Thursday evening, we have staff CPD sessions. This term we are focussing on SEN.

The purpose of Today’s session was to familiarise all staff with the interventions that the SEN team use to support our students. 
There was a strict 5mins rotation, which kept each micro session short, punchy and fully of content. Staff were encouraged to write reflections and notes about how they might use ideas in their own subject areas.
The entire SEN team (largest department in the Academy) stayed behind to lead the workshops. This was a great effort by the team of LSA’s and is testament to their commitment to supporting our students.
Below are some images of the notes made during the session.

Leading from PE

As part of my role as Assistant Head Teacher, I am planning to deliver a series of sessions at our weekly CPD session that runs every Thursday from 3:30pm – 4:30pm.

The sessions are going to be based around the “comfort stretch panic curve”, a concept first introduced to me by Ronnie Heath (@creatorronnie), Managing Director of Create Develoment. I posted about CSP back in December 2011. Click here to read… 

This is another example of where practice emerging from PE is being valued by SLT and is having a positive impact in the wider Academy.
Here are my initial thoughts about what the programme will include.
CSP inset thoughts
– what is the CSP curve?
– Key features of each zone – C, S & P.
–  what factors influence placement on CSP curve?
– What impact does it have on leap practice.
– How do we know when students in our lessons are in C, S & P? What behaviours do we witness?
– how can we ensure we stretch all students?
– self reflection:
  – how often do we visit stretch?
  – what influences our decision to be comfortable than to stretch ourselves?
  – Why do we sometimes find ourselves panicking (avoidable and unavoidable factors).
  – what impact does this have on student learning?
  – how can we stretch ourselves in the classroom?
As I adapt and refine my content, I shall post updates on this blog. When I deliver the training, I shall upload activities and feedback from staff.

An opportunity missed

On Thursday I spent the day travelling to London for a Westminster Briefing entitled “The Future of School Sports: Making the Legacy a Reality”.

One of the strengths of any conference / briefing of this nature, is the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals. This was actively encouraged at key moments in the day (including a networking lunch).

However, to effectively network in a 45 minute window is a challenge. I met and discussed with three people in this time, and even then, we didn’t get a chance to dig that deep into any specific area. There were many more of the 60+ delegates that I would have liked to have spoken to and exchanged contact details with.
A simple strategy that the organisers missed was to promote their twitter feed – @westminbreifing – and inform delegates to use a particular # so that networking could begin straight away. This was even more obvious in that several of the guest speakers actually had their own twitter feeds.
This way, if you did not have time to physically meet someone, you could virtually meet them at a later time. Also, if you start a conversation with ‘are you on twitter, Linked In etc’ , you know that you don’t have to finish your conversation / draw conclusions as you can continue the debate on line at a later time.

Surely by now, such events should be using the power of twitter to connect their delegates?

Welcome to the blog

Today, delivered a session on using a multi-ability approach in PE at the Secondary Best Practice Forum for PE (South Gloucestershire). The group consisted mainly Heads of subject/faculty.

This post is partly for their benefit. On reflection, this is a real jumble of information. Apologies for the lack of cohesion!

Firstly, to read a selection of posts based on the methods I was leading discussion on today, you can use this Accelerating Abilities link, or in the tag cloud on the right side of the home page.

At the end of the session, I asked if anyone used blogs or twitter as a CPD tool. There was a muted response. I was initially surprised, as I now know so many bloggers and tweeters, that I assume that a majority of teachers are now involved in some way. On reflection, I know I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. 14 months ago, I had not even considered it.

So, to demonstrate the resources available to a teacher who uses social media for CPD, I will have a browse for 5 mins and see what I can find.

Matt Lloyd at Springfields Academy – using comfort-stretch-panic curve to accelerate learning

and finally, a page on the blog of Jon Tait, highlighting several quality blogs in this Collection of guest blog posts

Clock stopped! Some great reading in that lot, and just the tip of the iceberg!

Other learning
A theme that I picked up on was how many PE departments are being judged solely by their results at GCSE and/or BTec. We debated about how PE departments should be judged and how SLT’s in schools vary in terms of what they see the role of the PE Department to be. Every Head of PE has a meeting with the Headteacher in September to discuss the exam results of the GCSE/BTec courses. But how many Headteachers meet to review the wider impact that a PE and school sport programme is having on the pupils and the school?

I have posted (and been published in the NCSL online magazine) about the Role of PE in 21st Century Education. This, along with the excellent guest post from Phil Wylie  should support passionate Heads of PE to engage Headteachers with the question  ‘what do you want from your PE Department?’

Linked to this, I used a resource borrowed from Ronnie Heath at Create Development. There were 50 cards with skills/abilties written on them. The PE teachers had to choose the 10 skills / abilities that they feel are most important for one of:

  • lifelong participation in physical activity / sport
  • Fulfilling potential in PE and school sport
  • Whole child development / wider school context
  • Gold medal winning Olympian.
From these 10 skills/abilities, they then built a pyramid with the most important skill/ability at the top.
Having done this task several times, with dozens of professionals, the results were totally predictable. Every group chose a combination of social (red) and personal (orange) skills, with a few creative (purple) and Cognitive (blue) thrown in. 

Not one group chose physical skills in their top ten. Which laid the platform for a challenge…
If you perceive these skills / abilities as being the most important to develop, how often are your learning objectives based on performing physical skills?

The group engaged really well, with some really good challenges. I look forward to following up those conversations / debates on a personal level with the individuals concerned.

5 Point Plan – DIY CPD

One of the aspects of leadership I enjoy the most is building capacity by supporting the professional development of colleagues. This can be done in a variety of ways including:

Coaching – proven to be a powerful tool for developing others. A good coach needs training and experience to be able to ask the right questions at the right time to guide the coachee to find their own solutions to the problem/issue arising.

Mentoring – similar to coaching, but using your experience to guide and advise.

Delegation – Delegating tasks and projects to members of your team. Done carefully, this can build skills and confidence and increase the levels of responsibility that staff have. This builds a solid foundation for future career progressions.

CPD – Identifying appropriate courses and cpd opportunities  for staff to attend. I turn the clock back to the stage of my career that those in my department are at to understand what might be beneficial for them. Coaching to get staff to identify their own needs is often the best way to go. However, sometimes staff underestimate themselves so don’t consider certain options (e.g. middle leader courses for outstanding teachers only a few years into their career). There are a lot of organisations out there that provide training, but do not always offer quality cpd, so caution needs to be taken (this could be a focus for a future blog post).

Have faith and instill confidence – Supporting ideas and recognising and acknowledging effort. This says “I have faith in you and value your contributions to the team”.

Think big and take your team with you – I love to innovate and try things differently to improve the learning experience of the pupils. Even when things are going well, I feel the need to review the process to see if it can be even better. This is a challenge that all outstanding schools have. It’s a difficult journey to get to outstanding, but arguably it is even harder to maintain and improve from this position. As I embark on this journey, I take the rest of my department with me, giving them the opportunity to develop at the same time.

It is sometimes the case however that teachers (often including NQT’s) lack a Head of Department that lacks the vision and passion to drive forward a department and developing those in their team is low on their list of priorities. There are many possible reasons for this mindset. It isn’t always conscious,and it can sometimes be a lack of skill rather than will.

This post wasn’t intended to be aimed at middle leaders that lack vision, more for the teachers that find themselves within the team and being “led” by said leaders.

Core businessRemember why you are a teacher and ensure that everything you do has a positive impact on the learners in your classes. Relating things to school and department development plans is also a good idea. If you are challenged by anyone on what and why you are doing it, this should keep those middle and senior leaders happy.

So here is a 5 point plan to looking after your own interests to ensure you develop professionally, to prepare you for that next post.

1. Develop a growth mindset (Dweck 2007):
Have the confidence to try out new things. Embrace challenge and change (one day you may have to lead change). Persist in the face of set backs. Learn from criticism. Be inspired by the success of others, not threatened by it. See effort as the path to mastery.

2. Record your progress
There are a few different aspects to this. I have found it useful to record three things;

  1. what you did,
  2. what impact it had on pupil learning,
  3. and a reflection on your own learning. What skills did you develop and what did you learn about the experience that you can take forward into the future.

3. Find yourself a specialism
Try to focus on a specific are of your teaching that you could use as a USP in future interviews. Within my team, Greig has specialised in areas such as leading outdoor activities and running a whole school enrichment programme (amongst other things).  Tom has made himself a regional lead in delivering Parkour in schools.

4. Use social media
When I started teaching practice in 2001, I absorbed so much information from so many people. To this day, I always look for good practice, take those ideas/concepts/methods, then mould them into something that fits in to my overall ethos and style. I look everywhere, not just to those more experienced than me. Colleagues in my department, Greig and Tom (5 yrs and 2yrs experience respectively) are always creating brilliant ideas that I constantly take, adapt and use.

I was fortunate enough then to learn from and be supported by some inspirational teachers, many of whom I still work with. Had I not been so lucky, I would have struggled to have found the support I needed to develop into the teacher/leader I am today. These days, I have a device that fits into my pocket, on which I can communicate with thousands of like minded people who provide ideas, inspiration, support, resources and more. This online community is the perfect place to grow in confidence and inspire you to try new things in your lessons that will inspire and engage your pupils.

5. Seek your own CPD
I am a member of the National College for School Leadership (NCSL). They provide a wide range of resources, including online seminars and courses that you can complete. Click here to see a list of courses available. You can also join an online community (see point 4) to discuss various issues in education. There are a whole range of opportunities available and for free! It looks good at future interviews if you have been motivated to get yourself onto courses in your own time. You can sign up for free at

Finally, it is worth remembering that your teaching career will span over decades (if you enjoy it as much as I do). If things are difficult or you are unhappy in a post, it will not last forever.

Three G’s of Leadership

In a recent interview for a leadership post, I thought about traits or qualities an effective leader should have, and which I feel that I possess.

I came up with the 3 G’s:

Grit – this refers to having high levels resilience. Life as a leader can be tough. When things do become difficult, it’s important to remain positive. It’s even more important to maintain a positive perception of you by colleagues. They will look to you for reassurance and strength in difficult times. As a leader, what you think is important, but what others think you think is more important.

Guts – this refers to having the courage to take risks, have difficult conversations when required and have the confidence / belief to lead change when faced with opposition.

Global – this refers to networking, sharing good practice, reading latest research and development papers…not just within school, the local authority, regionally or even nationally. With the use of social media, it is now as easy to learn from the teacher in the next classroom as it is the teacher living in a different continent.  Outstanding leaders in education need to embrace the digital revolution in order to maximise the flow of information and the ease in which it is accessible, otherwise I fear they will be left behind.