NQT Abigail Marsh asks that we don’t prejudge this year’s NQTs just because their training was interrupted by a pandemic

For trainee teachers, 2020 has been a real rollercoaster experience. I feel this has led a small minority of experienced teachers to compare their own training to that of the 2020 cohort’s negatively. It can’t be denied that your teacher training year is a time to find your way in the teaching profession and comes with its own trials and tribulations. However, nothing can be compared to the time faced this academic year. The assumption that NQTs who started this September were underqualified and lacking in experience, or ability, is far from the truth.

Because the training year hasn’t been completed in full, some experienced teachers feel this year’s NQTs are somehow underqualified. They feel that if they had missed the same amount of time in their training year, they wouldn’t have received their QTS. However, we didn’t miss large amounts of training. Every teacher training institution adapted to this year’s unique demands as they evolved. Placements weren’t missed; they changed. Just as many workplaces and training programmes across the country changed.

Discouraging experiences

As a trainee I received nothing but positivity and support at school throughout my training year, and this has continued into my NQT year. Though this isn’t the same experience for everyone. On social media platforms I have read posts from a select group of teachers expressing discouraging views towards trainees. They have made many NQTs feel unwelcome in their chosen profession.

Teaching is a practical and adaptive profession. When judging a trainee, their past classroom or education experience has to be taken into account. Many trainees have educational experience. This could be as teaching assistants or as technicians. These valid experiences mean they bring added value to the classroom. Others have industry experience which adds valuable insight into a school science department.

Many trainees are considering futures outside teaching – a loss for the children and the teaching profession as a whole.

Starting school

I was excited for my future as a teacher and developing my own practice in my NQT year. I know it is a very different world I have walked into compared to that of past NQTs, but for all of us there’s still a learning curve. The pressures and learning of every NQT year gained another layer of complexity for us this year: filling the gaps left by my interrupted placement year. Thankfully, many experienced teachers are there to support and guide me to better my own practice and to improve the students’ learning in my lessons.

Looking to the future, I am excited and hope that the reputation of all teachers will improve. I have learned that there is a lot of support for NQTs – from people in my school to the social media community of teachers.

Are NQTs at a disadvantage?

Many might consider this year’s NQTs to be disadvantaged by the disruption caused by the pandemic – missed and changed placements, less classroom time during their training. However, your NQT year is there to plug gaps. The first lockdown gave us the opportunity to reflect on our training and explore areas we could develop and improve. With that experience and my previous industry experience in my armoury, I shall continue to use my NQT year to develop further and reach my potential as a science teacher.

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