For those who are about to be newly qualified teachers (NQTs) the current situation with COVID-19 certainly presents a challenge when it comes to completing your course and getting your first job as a qualified teacher. There is guidance, however, so all is far from lost. This may not be the conclusion to your course and launch into the profession that you anticipated, but that does not mean you can’t successfully qualify and start to teach.
In this document published on 7th April 2020, the Department for Education states that it “will enable ITT providers to make judgements on trainees based on assessments already completed and each trainee’s current trajectory of progress towards meeting the teachers’ standards.” To this end, graduation should be possible for all those who were expected to pass.
If you are currently training, you should have heard from your training provider how these new arrangements will affect you. The DfE has stated in the document mentioned above that, “Trainees making adequate progress towards the teachers’ standards, where the ITT provider judges that the trainee would have completed their ITT course successfully, should be recommended for QTS at the end of their course.”
It goes without saying that it is important to engage with your course in its final weeks as much as possible at this time. If you are struggling for any reason, speak to your academic advisor or supervisor as soon as possible so that a path ahead can be found.
When it comes to getting a job under lockdown, or semi-lockdown, conditions, there are some key strategies you can employ. These ideas may help:
Headteacher of Culcheth High School Community Campus, Chris Hunt, has been recruiting through the reduced school opening. He has observed that initial teacher training students who have had their training interrupted have ‘gaps’ in their knowledge and understanding. These gaps, Hunt suggests, must be supported and perhaps even ameliorated by:
- Ensuring they continue to be supported by their university [or other training provider] via online learning
- Engaging in online learning of their own based on gaps/areas for improvement from earlier placements
- Ensuring they stay connected with their allocated schools
- Regularly contacting their school and subject mentor and get continued support
- Asking for video conference calls to discuss practice/theoretical approaches
- Reading around their subject areas and pedagogy
- Ensuring they stay up-to-date with current developments regarding awarding ITT/NQT
- Asking for a social distanced tour of any school they apply to – they are still open and will say ‘no’ if they have to
When it comes to making an application, it is essential to do your research. Find out what you can about the school from a variety of sources for example, its most recent Ofsted report, performance tables, the school’s website, and news reports on the school. This research should give you plenty of insights into how the school operates, its values and how it seeks to achieve them.
Hunt suggests that you should also:
- Prepare how you would fit into that school and why you want to work there
- Pick out key terms/facts/words to support this from the literature you have researched
- Be prepared for interviews being on online. It’s likely there will be ‘lesson walk throughs’ rather than the live lesson you may be asked to teach under usual circumstances
- You will need to submit your lesson plan and resources
- Think about behaviour strategies and engagement techniques appropriate to your lesson plan (and beyond)
- Make sure you can answer questions on subject knowledge and how extensive and up to date this is
- Be prepared to discuss your CPD/training/reading/subject development
The interview itself might be online so it important to be prepared for that. Apart from the obvious need to ensure the room you are in is tidy with no background distracting clutter, you can prepare by putting cues on cards out of camera shot. Do also rehearse using any tech you are not completely familiar with. You may need to be able to file share or share your screen to showcase your lesson plan or resources so make sure you can achieve this seamlessly and with confidence. In addition, Hunt suggests:
- Remembering that all other interview tips apply; be careful about body language, appearance and so on
- Asking questions pertinent to situation – what are the school’s plans for support/induction during lockdown conditions?
- If you don’t get the job ask for HONEST feedback that can help you in your next interview
- Being reflective so that you do more of the good things from the interview and work on the action points
- Asking school mentors/staff for additional online mock interviews
For many headteachers, Hunt included, they will be looking for the person first, and the teacher second. Even though the conditions of the interview may be less than ideal, aim to convey a sense of your personality so that you, and the school, can determine if you are a good match.
The circumstances in which we find ourselves now are unparalleled and schools, trainees and NQTs are carving a path ahead as well as they can. It won’t always be like this, but for now, find out from any school you apply to how they mean to progress with the process of selection and do your best to shine. Good luck!
Chris Hunt is on Twitter @chuculchethhigh
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.