Category Archives: NQT

Online interviews – Get yourself prepared!

It’s been about a year since Covid reared it’s head and affected the lives of everyone!
Of course this not only affects our daily lives but also directly affects us in the context of job applications and interviews.

It is no longer the case that on seeing a school you like or one that sounds great you can ring up the school office and wander along for a “look around”, have the opportunity to ask a few questions and sort of size up the place. No – this is now not going to happen.

Likewise with interviews – the usual attended interview is no longer happening and it is the case that schools are setting up online interviews with candidates via such applications as Zoom, Google, Microsoft teams etc.

So how does this affect things and how do we need to change our approach?
Aside from stating the obvious – you won’t be going into the school either to look around before you apply or if your application is successful for the interview itself…..the thing that you can count on is that everything will be dealt with over the internet – so you better get prepared!

This means that you need to get things ready – here are 9 things to think about to make sure you’re fully prepared.

1. Test your technology
The minute you agree to an online interview, test your technology to ensure you’re set up for success.
Check your internet connectivity, and confirm that your camera and microphone are working properly. 
Also check that you can actually connect to the particular software that is being used for the interview, just in case you need to make any adjustments to your settings or install supporting software beforehand. 
On the day of your interview, test your equipment and internet connection again. The last thing you want is the embarrassment of not being able to connect at the crucial moment! 

2. Check your setting 
Find a room with optimal lighting, preferably near a window, and ideally with a blank wall behind you to guarantee that you’re the focal point of the conversation. Ensure that your surroundings are neat and tidy. 
Check that you won’t be shrouded in shadow or washed out by glare – the interviewer needs to be able to see you properly to establish any sort of rapport. 
Choose an area that is free from all noise distractions. 
And remember, if you were attending an interview in an office, you would turn your phone off. So ensure your phone is switched off or on silent! 

3. How should you dress?
Dressing the same way as you would for an in-person interview will put you in the right frame of mind. It will also avoid any embarrassment if you need to move mid-interview! 
This may be the first impression that the interviewer has of you, so it is imperative that they see you are taking the interview just as seriously as you would if you were sat in the same room as them. 

4. Research and plan ahead
Like any other interview, make sure that you have researched the School (website, newsletters possibly newspaper articles etc….you could browse the latest OFSTED but its not really for you to comment on this but it may be a basis for a question or two) and have prepared any questions you have for the school about your job / support etc. 
Print out a copy of your application form and personal statement and have it to hand, so you can refer to it if necessary.

5. Engage! 
You can’t firmly shake anyone’s hand nor is it as easy to show enthusiasm via video. But you can monitor your body language and remain engaged with the interview panel and especially the person asking a question. The main way to communicate confidence is to sit up straight, smile, and keep the camera at eye level. 
Looking at the camera, rather than your image on the screen will help you look as engaged as possible. 
And while you’ll want to keep your posture straight, leaning slightly forward towards the camera can help increase eye contact and allow the panel to get a better sense of your enthusiasm. 

6. Be yourself 
This could be the first time that you have ever conducted a video interview, but it’s important that the school gets a real sense of who you are. The panel will be looking to see that you are not only capable from a practical and educational perspective, but that you are also the right fit for their school. This can be challenging during an online interview because there is a physical disconnect. It’s harder to feel your enthusiasm through the screen, so make sure you’re expressive when talking and answering questions. 
Make sure you emphasise not only with your skills and experience, but also your own particular approaches and interpretations – in other words your personality. 

7. Address any technical gremlins
If you experience a technical glitch like a weak connection or interference, always ask the interviewer to repeat what they were saying or asking. 
If the problem continues, politely mention it and suggest that you reconnect – you don’t want to miss any crucial information, or let technical problems get in the way of giving your very best performance. 

8. Think practically 
• Your username – you may already have a username for personal video calls, but is it suitably professional?
• Notes – have any notes or documents you might need at your fingertips, ideally printed out and therefore easy to refer to. To avoid looking down at notes these could be placed on the wall or a board directly behind your camera or screen.
• Headphones – always advised as they tend to minimise feedback when on a video call 

9. Prepare!
It doesn’t matter what the interview format is,  preparation is still key!
Good interview preparation will also give you that all-important confidence that could really set you apart from other candidates. You will feel more in control and relaxed and confident that you can answer whatever is asked. From this strong foundation you will find that your personality and confident interactions will show through and will no doubt impress the panel.
 So there you go – advice on the practicalities of preparing for your online interview. In my next article I will pull together all the examples kindly submitted by colleagues that they experienced at their online interviews.

Charles





Sorting your class into ability groups.

If you mention ability groups to some schools and teachers they will throw their hands up in horror and tell you it is the worst thing ever!

Yet in many schools you will find ability groups that are spread across year groups and occasionally across key stages – so why this spread of opinion and just what is the approach to take?

Well let’s look at the basic premise:- ” Children need to have work set at an appropriate level which challenges, consolidates and reinforces their knowledge and skills.”

That’s it really – that’s the baseline from which you have to work with your class.

Now that’s all well and good but aren’t teachers then faced with a whole class of differing individual levels that need to be addressed – yes technically that’s the case. I once had a teacher come to see me in a panic because she was differentiating work in her class and was trying to accommodate 10 differentiated levels…the workload she had set herself was enormous and of course not sustainable.

Differentiation is, of course, a completely different topic and my article on this can be found through the search bar on this site. However it is enough to say that differentiation is NOT simply different levels of work!

So do I personally recommend ability groups in class – the broad based answer is YES I do and the qualification is… but only where appropriate -in other words only for some stuff!

In which areas can I use ability groups?
Let me give you a list:-
1. Guided Reading / comprehension
2. Spelling groups / dictionary work
3. English Grammar
4. Maths number (occasionally- you be the judge)

So how do I decide who goes where?
In one word – TEST
It’s as simple as that – you have to know the ability of the children to be able to group them together. Now this doesn’t mean that you start to carry out exhaustive diagnostic testing – no; a simple “start of the Autumn term” test will give you the basics from which to begin. From this starting point you can adjust the groups as and when the children progress, fall behind or you find that they have a better (or worse) ability than you initially thought. But before you start to panic; the actual movement of children is never very much, with your original test giving a pretty good result.
We are looking for 3 groups to cover the whole class.

Keep your test simple and quick
It’s simply a matter of concocting a test which has questions set at 3 levels. Let me give you an example:-
Spelling groups – which children go into each of 3 groups to take home and learn the class weekly spellings?
Conduct a spelling test of 21 questions taken from the previous years spelling list. Take 7 questions from each of 3 levels from the words. All children do the same test.
Correct answers decides the group:
0 – 7 ….Group 3
8 – 14…Group 2
15 – 21..Group 1
It’s as simple as that – there is your starting point.

Guided Reading – Choose 3 different passages with differing levels and pre judge the children’s ability (this could be based on their spelling levels or on previous teacher comments). Administer the comprehension and questions in the usual way and mark the results. Using your professional judgement as to whether each child completed the test satisfactorily or not then group the children into 3 ability groups.

Why just 3 groups? – because it’s manageable. Experience shows that this is the best number of groups to successfully manage within your classroom. Any more than this and not only does your workload increase significantly but your planning will start to fragment as will the results from the children – stick with 3. This is not to say that they are 3 equal groups; nor that the same children will be in the same groups (1,2,3) for everything. Some children may have more difficulty with maths than lets say comprehension. You will find that the spread of numbers will be heavy in group 2 as you would expect and less so in groups 1 and 3. However you now have your basis for setting work that is appropriate for the children in each group.

Why only certain subjects and areas within the curriculum?
Primary education is completely different from secondary in its approach and method. There are many areas of the curriculum where children can actively learn and respond at their own level and contribute not only individually but also in mixed ability group situations. These are represented in the majority of the foundation subjects but also in areas of the core – an example being “Speaking and listening” in English.

So there you have it – ability groups are an excellent method of targeting work to children’s ability and progress in various areas of the curriculum. Not only does it help focus your planning and guide your assessment but it provides the children with the appropriate levels of challenge and success that focus and encourage the children’s learning.

Support and training in your Induction year – just how good should it be?

This applies right across your teaching training course and into your induction year – so it should be good….shouldn’t it?

There are many and varied ways to train to be a teacher – yet all should, in theory, prepare you to the same level of competence to enable you to begin your teaching career with confidence.

However a recent report has highlighted that those colleagues who follow the PGCE route into teaching seem to be at a disadvantage due to the amount and pace of work required to push everything into 1 year. This workload will be familiar to any colleagues reading who have followed this route – but worryingly it’s not the workload that is causing concern but the resultant knock on effect in a negative way, on the practical support and training that these students are receiving. In short many PGCE students do not feel that they are practically ready to start their teaching careers with confidence.

Now it’s not the remit of this article to look into the perceived failures of PGCE training. However if we broadly look at the picture we should expect to see that whatever training you receive it should equip you to both understand the practical requirements of teaching and also to have experience and support in applying these in the classroom. After all, its 1 thing to talk about this but quite another to actually do it!

As I have pointed out previously the NQT induction year is there for a purpose. There is a recognition that the transition from teacher training to actually being a teacher in school does need to be supported and managed. But the induction year is not meant to be a “training year” as such – no that is the purpose and role of the University, college and the variety of teacher training establishments. Rather the purpose of the induction year is to assist, support and advise colleagues as they practically pull together all the strands into their professional classroom practice.

Teacher training establishments therefore should be providing the foundations and initial practical building blocks upon which the “induction year” can build and cement. (don’t you just love construction analogies!)

The Induction year – The Induction tracker is a working document against which a newly qualified teacher and also their school can judge both achievements and progress as the year progresses. Once completed the records will give a detailed report of the teachers achievements across the induction year and also document any training and support as well as mentor input that was given. As a document that is “running in the background” to a colleagues day to day teaching, it reflects progress in real time and can identify and report on any areas where input or support are needed and subsequently the resultant outcomes of that support. The detail and dated aspects of the tracker are especially useful on review by both the teacher and also the school.

Support and training:- The nature of support and training falls into 2 categories.

  1. Support and training that occurs as either part of the teacher training course or during the induction year process. This will either be part of the course undertaken in the training establishment (or could involve some forms of training courses at placement schools) Or Induction year training courses which may either be school based or be part of ongoing induction support run for all NQTs by the Local Authority. It is recommended that ALL courses and dates are logged by colleagues as part of their developing CV.
  2. The second level of support that I am going to refer to occurs when an NQT is experiencing difficulties during their induction year and we will go into more detail on this below.

Induction Year support

It is imperative to an NQT that the school uses the Induction year standards document – this provides the basic attainment and assessment thresholds that need to be met during this time and is completed progressively by both the NQT and Mentor. It is also the basis from which any support programme is devised should an NQT be experiencing problems in any area. Schools and mentors MUST raise any problem as soon as possible to enable support to be introduced immediately and the following procedures should be followed. It is NOT acceptable for a problem to be left and then reported upon at the end of a term if that potential failure point has not been previously identified and supported. Procedures to be followed are shown below.

Induction year support :-

As you can see from the above, there is a very definite support process for colleagues who may be experiencing difficulties during the Induction year. However do remember that you are not expected to be “the finished article” at this time and the Induction year is designed specifically to enable your transition from training to classroom to be supported and guided – that’s why the structures are in place. Everything is based on the Induction standards documentation…that’s why it is so vital!

Support from the NEU

If you are involved in any part of this process then of course you have the support of your Union to advise and guide. I would recommend that you contact your union straight away and to keep them fully informed of the situation and how it is being managed. The National Education Union is the largest teaching union in the UK and has a wealth of experience in NQT support and is up to date with all the processes and procedures of the Induction year and can advise you accordingly. If you are not currently a member of the NEU but would like to join then the link is below.

The NEU is recommended by Primary Practice.

https://neu.org.uk/join-now?utm_source=OrganicSocial&utm_medium=PrimaryPractice+PrimaryPracticeGroup&utm_campaign=PrimaryPractice&fbclid=IwAR08dn0iwL6PLSay3ZvkTtsBAFn3m5nahbBEteYs45sHw5IUEx921L4yB8A

A simple classroom management approach for a “young class.”

Classroom management strategies and behaviour management strategies run hand in hand across every aspect of your classroom and teaching. Together they form the foundations of everything you do.

We have looked at the principals behind both classroom management and behaviour management and then extended this to build, apply and implement our own working systems.

All classes are different – 

One size does not fit all – by that I mean that because you have successfully used a particular system with one class then it will follow that the same system will work for another.

However, the basic format and approach CAN be used – in other words YES you can start out by applying the same system you have used before but you should be prepared to modify and change this as the needs of your class require.

So why do I say this?

I was in a school recently and a member of staff came to me with a problem. She wasn’t having behavioural problems as such but had a class that were both chatty and very slow to settle when asked.

By combining her behaviour and classroom management strategies she had introduced a system that noted how long the class took to settle when asked and deducted this time from their playtimes or  lunchtimes. It was a system she had used with a previous class and the stopwatch was displayed on the interactive board.

The problem that she was having was with this year group it didn’t seem to be as effective and the class was having to stay in quite a lot!

Looking at the problem

If you have read my article on Chatty classes then you will see that this method is one (among many ) that I recommend as a good approach and in fact it was one that this colleague had used well in the past. So why wasn’t it working so well this time and how could we modify things to make it effective?

On investigation the teacher began to realise that it seemed to be the same children who were not settling or becoming quiet when asked – this of course means that in starting the stopwatch the rest of the class was, in effect, having to miss time BECAUSE of these individuals.

It also came to light (it was a Y3 class) that the class had a disrupted year last year with 3 teachers across the academic year….meaning 3 different approaches to teaching, expectations and of course discipline!

Basically …they were a YOUNG CLASS!

So what did we change?

There were 2 things that we had to consider…

  1. The stopwatch approach wasn’t working so we needed different
  2. We wanted to avoid the whole class being caught in the attitude of the few who were dragging their feet.

This is what we did

Having recognised that the class had a disrupted Y2 we decided to move back to a practical and visual  approach when the class were asked to settle or become quiet.

We used the simple technique of

  1. Asking for quiet
  2. Teacher putting their hands on their head – the children copy….5 seconds
  3. Teacher (without speaking) put their hands on their shoulders …5 seconds
  4. Teacher (without speaking) puts their hands down and the children either put their hands on their laps or on the desk.
  5. At this point…the whole class should be quiet (and the majority will be)
  6. However – This now allows the teacher to identify those children who are still talking or not settling down…in other words we have shifted the emphasis from a whole class to individuals.
  7. Any child not sitting quietly is now told to “stand up” – these can then be told that they have not listened or done what is expected and their names are then moved onto the behaviour management system or names / ticks etc on the board.

 

As you can now see the teacher has now moved to a visual and interactive stimulus for quieting the class. Even if some children do not hear the teacher ask for quiet they will see what is happening around them and know what it means. The approach also takes the stopwatch timing away from the whole  class and lands on the individuals concerned who as we have said previously “take responsibility for their own actions”

Conclusion.This was our solution to the problem that this colleague was experiencing. The basics of her approach were right but just needed modifying to suit the needs of that particular class. Once this was introduced the problem soon went away and things settled down nicely.

[This illustrates a very basic routine of movements that many of the children will already know. The actions are, of course, simply a 3 part visual system that involves the children and you could alter or change these as you wish. ]

Hope this may be of help – as it surfaced recently I thought I would pass it on.

Charles