Mrs Humanities

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NQT? No job for September? Develop don’t despair!

I’ve recently been contacted by a couple of trainees that have gained QTS but do not have positions for September. As you can imagine, they’re feeling somewhat disheartened and worried. I’m writing this post to let them know that it’s okay if they don’t secure a job for the new school year, that there are other options available and that there are many fantastic teachers that didn’t start their NQT year immediately after training.

So if you are a newly qualified teachers reading this and if you haven’t secured a position (yet), please try not to despair. Although the worry of income might be a concern, there are opportunities for employment available. To demonstrate this I took to twitter and asked for insight from those that have been in this position. In the rest of this post, I’ll share my experience and some insight from the edutwittersphere.

An Opportunity

When I undertook my PGCE, I was living in a hamlet near Machynlleth, Mid Wales. To get to any large ‘urban’ conurbation, you were looking at a journey of 30 miles or more. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, jobs were few and far between. It was for this reason, along with a few others (which I discuss in more detail in Making it as a Teacher), that led me to applying for positions in West Kent/East Sussex.

However, the journey from Mach to Kent was a good 7-12 hours, thus I had to be very selective about the schools I applied to. Although my interview feedback was always positive, I sadly didn’t secure a position by the end of the school year.

However, despite passing ITT, by the end of the course I was lacking confidence and felt disheartened that I hadn’t managed to secure a role for September. I went back to bar work for the Summer.

When September rolled around, positions started to appear as the term went on yet I didn’t have much confidence left by this point and started looking for jobs outside of teaching, but within the education sector.

By October I had secured a position in a day nursery, working with primarily 2-4 year olds. Initially I hadn’t seen it as an opportunity to develop, merely something to pay the bills, but I quickly came to realise that I was witnessing the theory in practice. This sparked an interest in child development and I started exploring the topic beyond the what we’d learnt on the course.

Come Spring my employer wanted me to undertake the NVQ that would allow me to go on to do EYFS management qualifications. Their encouragement allowed my confidence to blossom which made me long for the classroom again. And so, with my employers support and encouragement (they were former teachers) I started applying for secondary positions again.

I had a few interviews in the Spring and finally secured a position just before the May half term. Whilst the school may not have been at the top of my list, as it was quite some distance away and I didn’t yet drive, I was relieved to finally be undertaking my NQT induction.

The school started their new school year in July and so that was when I started. I walked into my classroom, nervous as hell on the first day. Apart from the interview lesson, I hadn’t been in a room with teenagers for over a year I was now expected to independently teach them. I think I was visibly shaking beforehand. But, it went okay. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful. But I was now a Teacher. That meant a lot.

Feeling like a failure?

Try not to despair and instead think of this period as a time to develop.

I know it’s easier said than done, but:

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  3. Try thinking outside the box.

Many of the messages from those on twitter, mentioned how at first they felt like a failure. I did as well. But a common response has also been, that they felt the experience made them a better teacher. It cemented that they loved classroom teaching and allowed them to gain experience which others that have gone straight from training to teaching will never have.

So you haven’t a position (yet), what’s next?

You may not have secured a teaching position in a school for September, but that doesn’t mean you never will. For a while it may mean you have to think beyond a classroom teacher position to earn an income, but there are many ways you can do so within the education sector.

Twitter was extremely helpful are providing alternative options. Many sent me messages about what they did in between and how it helped and developed them. Rather than highlighting individual experiences, I’ve collated their thoughts to provide an idea of some of the options out there.

Beyond Classroom Teacher

1. Supply
Whilst it maybe challenging and the income insecure, supply can provide a flexible way of gaining experience.

The positives

  • Gain experience of a variety of approaches to teaching and learning
  • You experience a variety of schools, which will help you to identify and cement your ethos towards education and how it is delivered.
  • Confidence building. Many of those that messaged me said that the experience of going into different schools (sometimes on a daily basis) was daunting at first. However working in different contexts with different people built their confidence overtime, of which benefited them in future interviews.
  • Development of behaviour management. Some commented how they experienced a wide range of behaviour management policies and techniques which have influenced their approach to behaviour ever since.
  • Supply allows you to create contacts in other schools. If you do a good job of supply, they may keep you in mind for future positions.
  • You can say no – if you don’t like a school you’ve worked in before, you don’t have to go back.
  • Empathy for supply staff. You’ll never meet a supply teacher and not make them feel welcome afterwards.
  • Many have found ‘the one’ and have been at their schools for a long period of time.

    More information on becoming a supply teacher can be found here.

2. Temporary Positions
Don’t be put off my temporary positions such as those covering long term sickness or maternity. Whilst they may not provide the security of a long-term contract, they have their benefits.

The Positives

  • Similar to those for supply teaching
  • Longer term so can provide an opportunity to complete part of the NQT induction programme.

3. Teaching Assistant
Being a teaching assistant is underrated and underpaid. The skills, qualities and understanding one can develop from the position are not always recognised or appreciated by some in the teaching profession. I’ve worked with some incredible teaching assistants with degrees and other higher level qualifications in SEN, Educational Studies etc. Yet, they were earning less that £20,000. Unfortunately, this role doesn’t tend to pay well, but the experience gained can be extremely beneficial to your practice later on.

The positives

  • you see the classroom from a different point of view
  • you build relationships with students in a completely different way
  • you see pupils approach learning differently to the classroom teacher
  • opportunity to put into practice things you learnt during training
  • experience in different year groups and school contexts

4. Resource Publishers
Why not consider applying for positions or sending resources you’ve made to companies that specialise in the publication of teaching resources? There are companies that specilise in key stage and/or subject specific resources as well as subject associations that encourage and pay teachers for creating and sharing resources through them. On occasions there are opportunities for contracted employment with them as well. Whilst the income may not be large or even regular, it can be a useful experience for the CV.

The positives

  • You’ll gain experience in creating classroom resources
  • You’ll also add to your personal resource bank
  • Develop your curriculum and/or subject knowledge
  • You may develop skills in project management

Teach Secondary

5. Alternatively, publish your own resources
Whilst it may not make a huge amount, it can be a developmental experience. As with publishing with a company, organisation or subject association it’ll provide you with new knowledge and skills. Whilst also providing an entrepreneurial opportunity.

The positives

  • similar to publishing with resource publishers, except you have control. You can decide the design, format, topic etc.
  • development of business and entrepreneurial skills
  • you can do this around other employment

6. Education Companies and Organisations
When I considered leaving the profession back in Spring 2016, I started exploring other options. Whilst I never ended up sending applications, I wrote a number for education based companies. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I wouldn’t have been able to start until the end of July, I may have even sent some. Many looked just as fulfilling as classroom teaching but without the pressure, responsibility and hours.

The positives

  • A different perspective on education
  • Insight into how companies and organisations work with schools
  • Networking possibilities
  • Dependent on the focus of the company you may learn about an aspect of education you previously had little knowledge of e.g. educational technology

7. Charities
Most charities have an education team. Whilst positions usually do not pay well, they can be opportunity to feel like you are working towards something bigger through education. When I interned with Global Action Plan prior to my PGCE, I absolutely loved working on the EcoTeams programme. Whilst I worked on organising events across the country and preparing the resources for them I not only learnt about sustainable living but how to deliver courses to adults of all ages.

The positives

  • Experience of education from a different perspective
  • May involve resource creation and development
  • Can involve the creation of courses, training or workshops
  • May provide opportunities to go into schools and deliver workshops or educational packages
  • May provide opportunities to deliver courses, training or workshops to adult learners
  • Allows for networking

8. Tutoring
Usually tutoring takes place either 1-1 or within small groups, and whilst it may not be a 9-5 job, it can provide you with the opportunity to work in your chosen subject or key stage.

The positives

  • Often, tutoring sessions are outside of school hours, which means you can arrange them around other work
  • Working with small numbers of students
  • Little preparation
  • Develop knowledge and understanding of exam specifications if at KS4 or 5.
  • Can test different approaches and strategies for teaching and learning
  • Explore ways of building positive relationships with young people

9. Pastoral Roles
Whilst you’re not in a direct teaching role, a pastoral role can be beneficial in helping you to develop the skills and qualities that allow you to build effective, working relationships with students. There are schools that are happy to take applications for pastoral roles from people without teaching experience. The fact that you have QTS maybe beneficial here and lead to future employment.

The positives

  • Working with young people from a different perspective
  • Opportunity to develop skills and qualities that allow you develop effective, working relationships with students
  • Insight into pastoral work, beneficial if it’s a route you’re thinking of going down later on

10. Other educational settings
As I did, you may like to look at other or alternative educational settings such as day nurseries, pre-schools, colleges or universities. Whilst they may not provide the opportunity to teach directly, they can be helpful in maintaining that connection to education. you may even wish to look at applying for teaching positions in other key stages or look at solely pastoral roles.

The positives

  • Maintains link to primary, secondary or further education
  • Opportunity to experience other settings providing insight into what comes before/after the stage at which you trained

Possible challenges

Whilst there are many options available, they obviously come with challenges. These are some of the areas that I and others have experienced as a result. However, do not let them worry you. For many of us, these challenges turned out well.

  • Positions may be low paid compared to new teacher salaries
  • You many need to work several jobs in order to supplement education based work such as supply or tutoring
  • You may feel financially insecure – but there are organisations like Education Support Partnership that can potentially provide financial support.
  • Loss of confidence. Many felt that initially they lost confidence, but as they gained experience in other areas, it slowly returned.
  • Expect the unexpected. You may end up working somewhere you never anticipated such as a supermarket, pub or pharmacy. Those that did, said that despite not being in education, they enjoyed the roles as it was something different and gave them further life experience.

Going Forward

So what do you do now?

1. Keep applying for positions

Whilst working elsewhere ensure you keep applying for the positions that you feel attracted to. However, don’t feel you need to apply to everything out of desperation. Something will find you eventually.

Some of the benefits of continuing to apply as highlighted by those that messaged me include:

  • any interviews provide an opportunity to network
  • school visits and interviews allow you to build up contacts which maybe beneficial in the future
  • each interview developed interview technique, some benefited from increased confidence
  • talking to staff at the schools was helpful and insightful
  • visiting numerous schools cemented what they did and didn’t like in a school
  • they felt more resilient by the time they started their NQT induction
  • experiencing a number of schools meant they learnt that you shouldn’t just go by what is on the school web page – schools can be very different (positively and negatively) to what they portray

2. Maintain contact with your training schools (if you had a positive experience with them)
Stay in contact just in case something arises in the near or even distant future.

3. Widen your search
For some it maybe that you need to widen your search area, this may mean a longer commute or even a move. This is what I did, whilst it wasn’t ideal, it was doable.

4. Application and Interview Technique
You may wish to ask someone experienced to look over your application and in particular your letter or statement of application. Always ensure you individualise your application to the school you are applying to. I used to have a generic template which outlined my ethos, my previous experiences and how my qualifications influenced how I teach. Firstly, I would consider how my ethos and the school ethos relate, and add this in. Then I would take the job specification and adapt my content to the requirements of the school. When I did this, I always got an interview. The few times I did a ‘last minute’ generic application, it was obvious I hadn’t done my research and I wouldn’t be invited for interview. Correlation? Maybe.

My friend Tom Rogers, @RogersHistory has set up this course to help with this element.

5. Network and connect
Edutwitter these days seems to be a positive place to network and connect with teachers and school leaders making it possible to reach out and ask for support and guidance. I’ve seen a number of teachers ask about positions in particular areas and discussions have then led them to a job. There are plenty out their willing to support.

Get in touch

The following are some of those that messaged me and are happy to share their experiences and advice on the routes they took before undertaking their NQT induction.

Victoria Hewett @MrsHumanities – Other educational setting
Teaching for Teachers @CherylC65378170 – Supply
Nicola @warrender278 – Supply
MrBrooksGeog @MrBrooksGeog – Supply
Jodie Waters @HistoryWaters – Supply
Miss Wood @PEMissWood – Application Advice
MrsMc @clmckimm – Moved location
Sarah Gooch @gucci22 – Supply
Hannah McCarthy @HannahCarey4 – Maternity cover
Ms G @SWprimaryHT – Supply and Application Advice
Mrs M @KAOMoreton – Supply
Harriet Cornwell @First_Floor_8 – Supply

If you’re an early career teacher still looking for that first post you might also be interested in the facebook group that has recently been set up by Lorren Brennan @BrennanLorren, as a support space for those in this position.

If you’re reading this post but haven’t used twitter for professional purposes or are new to it, you might find this post of mine useful.

I really hope that if you are newly qualified teacher and happen to be in this position, that this post has provided you with some useful insight and the confidence that it will be okay eventually. You might not have a position for September, but something will arise. You will learn and develop during this in-between period and as many of those that messaged me have said, it’ll make you an even better teacher.

Before I say goodbye, I should probably plug my book, Making it as a Teacher. It’s full of ideas, advice and inspiration to support early career teachers through the first 5 years. Grab a copy here.

Best wishes,



Mrs Humanities shares… 5 tips for NQTs

mrs humanities shares

I remembed my NQT year as incredibly stressful, more so than my PGCE. I found myself in a challengeing school with extremely high expectations for staff. Whilst my department were amazing as was the NQT co-ordinator and lots of the other staff from across the school were very supportive, it was a difficult year.

Within the 1st term Ofsted decided to turn up, madness struck by the October half term. Workload was relentless, constantly planning, marking and assessing progress. It was hard work but taught me so much. So I thought I’d share a few tips for those embarking of their NQT year soon, these are based on personal experiences and others may have different advice.

  1. Forget progress in the first term. 
    Honestly spend the first term getting to know your students; how do they learn? What learning activities do they enjoy? What contributions do they make to school life? What hobbies do they have outside of school? Get to know the young people you are teaching. Build those all important relationships and make it clear what your expectations are in the first term. Personally I wished I’d done exactly that during the first few weeks of my NQT year rather than worrying about whether students were making progress. I now like to spend the first term finding out where my students are in regard to their subject knowledge, a bit about them and making my classroom expectations explicit. I make sure they are doing the little things that make the bigger things easier e.g. keeping their book tidy, meeting homework deadlines etc. and if they are not I crack down on it immediately – detentions, phone calls home, no second chances.
  2. Set up clear routines.
    My first school had a clear routine for students once they entered the classroom. Collect books, get out equipment, write the date, title and learning objective and underline them and then get on with the starter task until the register had been taken. This made it easy to set up initial routines. If your school doesn’t have a specific start to lessons, create one. Students like consistency and knowing what to expect. Lay that out for them from day 1; once they know they then know your expectations as well.
    However it’s not just the start of lessons you need to set up routines for. Consider routines for some of the following:
    – End of lesson
    Peer/Self assessment
    Class discussions
    – Handing books in
    – Toilet requests
    The list could continue but I don’t want to overwhelm anyone.
  3. Know your expectations
    Ensure you know what you expect from your students before the first day of school. It’s important when setting the foundations with your classes that you are clear in regards to what you’d expect from them and what they can expect from you. You will find yourself spending the first few weeks constantly repeating these rules and expectations but once your students are clear on them and are able to remember them (if you work in secondary, remember they will have numerous teachers with different expectations and routines they won’t instantly remember yours) you can then start to focus on the bigger picture – student progress. Word of caution though, ensure your expectations are achievable – if students feel there is no way or chance of them meeting your expectations you maybe faced with some behavioural issues.
  4. Know the school rules
    Consistency is important, ensure you know and understand the school rules and behavioural routines before you start teaching. In the long run it makes life in the classroom easier for you; give warnings clearly, set detentions and chase them up. Phone home if you have to. Once student’s know they can’t mess you around and that you a consistent and follow through life in the classroom eventually becomes a little easier. Also it’s really annoying when you constantly follow school behaviour routines and find that others are not, it makes your teaching life a lot more difficult if staff are not consistent and following the school wide routines. Firstly students know what to expect if they consistently come up against the same routines, also they can’t argue back if you do what everyone else is (or should) be doing. Be firm, be consistent. Ensure that you and other NQTs know and follow the routines set out.
  5. Smile before Christmas
    I’m sure you would have heard plenty of words of wisdom like the old ‘don’t smile before Christmas’. Ignore it. Greet your students on their way in and around the school. Talk to them off topic now and then. Tell them little snippets about yourself. Be human. Personally I tried too hard to be ‘a teacher’ and not a human teaching other humans; I felt I had to be 100% the professional and didn’t feel it was acceptable to share anything about myself with my students. I later realised this doesn’t work. It makes you unapproachable and unrelatable. Once you’ve established routines and expectations you can begin to ‘relax’ a little with your students and let them see a bit of you – you’re favourite colour (often related to the colour pen a student is using for their notes), your favourite parts of the topic (*insert excited face here* don’t get me started on climate change, I could talk about it for hours), your favourite books (oh,  I see your reading….I love it, have you got to the part where…. whoops was that a spolier?). I’m sure you get the picture. Have those conversations with your students; let them see you are human too.

I hope this is some use to you, feel free to ask questions or for the more experienced of you feel free to add your top tips in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Mrs Humanities


Marking, feedback and DIRT

Marking, feedback and DIRTThis week I had the experience of leading a marking and DIRT workshop as part of our Teacher Conference CPD day.

For me, this was the first time I’ve led and organised a CPD session by myself.  I really enjoyed it and had lots of positive feedback so I thought I’d share the resources from my session here.

The main aims of the session were

1. To introduce the marking policy to new staff

2. To improve and support current marking and feedback

3. To make marking and feedback more efficient and quicker whilst still providing high quality feedback

Everyone received a pack of ideas which included ways of providing marking and feedback whether it be teacher assessment or self or peer assessment. With each idea came an outline of the teacher’s role, the pupil’s role and then how Directed Improvement and Reflection Time (DIRT) could be incorporated.

I won’t bore you with the details of how the workshop was then carried out and instead I’ll share with you the resources I used. Some of these ideas I’ve developed myself, others I have picked up over the last 3 years of my career.

double tick DIRTannotation marking DIRTmarking codes DIRTfeedback grid DIRTlevel up marking DIRTdot marking DIRTWWW and EBI marking and  DIRTself assessment WWW and EBI marking and DIRTRAG123generic peer assessment DIRTpeer assessment mark my weakness DIRTpeer assessment kind helpful specific DIRTPeer critique marking DIRTmatch the techerexplain the mistake marking DIRTI use the majority of these regularly in my classroom as you can see by all the photos I’ve included, others I’ve trialled but didn’t feel were completely successful or that they suited my way of teaching. However they maybe useful to others so they were included. Some I’ve still left to try, I particularly like the ‘Match the Teacher‘ technique and think I will trial this with my GCSE group in the new year.

Self and peer assessment has taken time and effort, but it really is worth the investment. Now my pupil’s have the skill and can provide each other with high quality considerate yet constructive feedback it will set them in good stead for the future. I truly recommend developing right from September in year 7.

Hope these ideas provide you with some new ideas and some suggestions on how to incorporate directed improvement and reflection time.

Please note: RAG123 example by Mrs Griffiths was originally by B Yusuf. Sorry for error in original reference.
Mrs Humanities



This week during a discussion, I was referred to as the “Queen of Differentiation”. In response I replied “well it beats the PMT Queen as l was formerly named’. AWKWARD.

However it got me thinking about differentiation and how I embed the practice into each and every lesson. These days it is something I just DO, I reflect on it and improve it but I find it hard to explain it and since a NQT might join me come September I thought I ought to start considering how I share the concept and ideas.

Throughout the last 3 years of teaching I’ve developed a wide range of strategies which include task based, support based and outcome based differentiation. However throughout my training and NQT year it was always reiterated that differentiation by outcome was not acceptable and that we should always differentiate by task. But how true is that?

Since passing my induction I’ve started to realise that their is a lot more to differentiation than you are taught in the first few years of teaching. It might not always be one of the 3 approaches named above.

Sometimes it can take the form of changing the language you use with certain pupils, for instance I might use 3 different words to give the same meaning to 3 individual students of different abilities. The questions you ask may vary, they still provide the same outcome but the way it is worded changes. The pace of a lesson may vary between classes, groups and individuals. All of these could be seen in my lessons along side task, support and outcome based differentiation.

I thought I’d outline here some of my favourite ways to differentiate to give inspiration.

1 //  My favourite method has to be differentiation through choice. There are two ways in which I approach this, sometimes it is levelled based task other times is it linked to their preferred learning styles.

Levelled Based Choice

I will set up a range of tasks that develop the skills, knowledge and understanding for a particular level. I usually set 3 tasks per class. Those with the lower level range select from the first two options whilst those within the higher level range select from the second and third options meaning they either complete work that enables them to reach or exceed their targets.

A recent example was in an observed lesson with a year 7 class. You can see below that I set up 3 tasks and the students had to choose the level of spice they would attempt.

1 chilli = a level 3 task with a level up task to take them into level 4
2 chillies =  level 3a & 4c tasks with a level up task to take them into a confident level 4
3 chillies = level 4a and 5c tasks with a level up task to ensure they achieved a confident level 5

differentiation choice task

Learning Styles

On occasions I will give the class a range of options for the format in which they present their work such as through a presentation, a leaflet, a poster, an extended piece of writing, a model or story board to name a few.

For instance last term year 7 completed projects on a variety of natural hazards as part of our Dangerous World topic. Firstly pupils were put into ‘levelled’ groups, for instance those with a higher target grade were grouped together and given a hazard that would create more challenge in researching, understanding and explaining.

The groups were then given the levelled criteria and suitable guidance for their ability. They then set about creating their projects for presentation in which ever format they choose from the selection of ‘previews’.

Learning styles became very clear through the activity, those with a kinaesthetic preference made models that demonstrated their knowledge of the hazards, whilst the more visual learns seemed to create projects with lots of text and pictures. There were clear differences within groups as well, for instance one group half of them created a model of a volcano whilst the other half created a large poster for display with images and text.

2 // Questioning

Now this one is hard to evidence when you are questioning the class unless you prepare your questions and who they will be aimed at in advance, which was actually something I was made to do during my PGCE. Although annoying at the time, it  was useful to get me thinking about students abilities, targets and progress.

Nowadays I ask a question before I say any names, I then quickly consider who that question would be suitable for whilst also providing the whole class with thinking time. Then I pounce on the unsuspecting victim and wait for the response.If appropriate I’ll then try to get a higher level student to extend, correct or develop the answer or ask a lower ability student whether they agree or not and why before moving on.

3 // Third and final idea for today is by resource/task.

This is the most time consuming if I’m honest. In a single lesson I can be known to have created 3 levelled tasks then further differentiated them through the support given as well as the resources they are provided with. I may go OTT sometimes. I try not to do that to often however it doesn’t always work out.

Anyway differentiation by resource can take many forms.

For instance in one year 8 lesson, I wanted a number of pupils to achieve the same level of outcome but through different approaches that were suitable to their needs and learning styles.

The level 4 aim was to describe adventures in more than one location. In order to do this a few students were locating places on a map with different adventure possibilities and describing the potential adventures to be had whilst another group were given two adventurer profiles and using a Role on the Wall sheet they had to decide on a location for each and describe they type of adventure to be had there. They both achieved the level 4 objective just in didn’t ways.

Another example would be with my GCSE group when defining key words, a small group receive a number of choices to choose from whilst others have to write their own definition.

Another examples is from a recent observation lesson I gave level 3 and 4 students a very basic colour shading map of population density whilst the level 5 students were given a choropleth map to interpret (not that the observer noticed the different).

There are loads of other useful ideas floating around the internet such as these differentiation cards or this differentiation deviser many ideas for both the newbie and the veteran teacher.

Mrs Humanities