What to Expect From NQT or ECT Years: Guidance & Tips

June 11, 2021
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Teaching can be an extremely rewarding job, but for those who are just starting out (previously known as NQTs, now ECTs) it can seem daunting. The first two years involve key steps to prepare you for your future role, such as training and the development of your existing skills.

In this article, we will outline what ECT years involve, explain what to expect as a new teacher, and provide some tips for successfully becoming a fully qualified teacher.

What Are NQT or ECT Years?

When you complete your teaching qualification (whether that is a PGCE or training directly in a school), you will achieve Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). However, you don’t become fully qualified to teach in state schools until you have undergone further training on the job. This usually lasts for your first two years of teaching – or, if you are part-time, however long it takes you to complete six full terms. During these years, you will be known as an Early Career Teacher (ECT).

Prior to September 2021, only one year of training was required, and ECTs were known as Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs). The system has been changed in an effort to better support teachers, after reports of them feeling underprepared.

ECT years are funded and involve completing a tailored programme of high-quality training based on the Early Career Framework (ECF) for around 10% of your total 1265 working hours in the first year. Carrying out planning, preparation, and assessment (PPA) will take up 10% of your time, and teaching will account for the remaining 80%.

In the second year, training will still take place, but will only take up 5% of your timetable. You should not have additional non-teaching responsibilities during the ECT period unless adequate extra support is provided.

You will be assigned a dedicated mentor who supports you throughout the period – in the form of regular one-to-one sessions and extra training, where appropriate – as well as an induction tutor, who monitors progress, provides guidance, and (usually) assesses you against Teachers’ Standards.

Assessments take place midway through – and at the end of – the ECT period. You will also have regular progress reviews each term (when a formal assessment is not scheduled instead). These reviews aim to prepare you for the formal assessment, and to provide evidence that your teaching is on track.

Why Do NQTs or ECTs Have to Complete an Induction Programme?

The goal of the two introductory ECT years is to help you become a successful teacher. The induction programme builds on your initial teacher training and allows you to demonstrate that you can meet the requirements and standards necessary for the role over an extended period of time.

It is also a chance to make mistakes in an environment where you have the support to learn from them. You can discuss things that go wrong with your mentor, and talk about what you could have done instead. By the end of the programme, you should have a complete toolset for every potential situation that might occur, and the potential to be the best teacher you can be.

How Can New Teachers Pass the NQT or ECT Years?

In order to complete the ECT years, you will need to pass the assessments that take place at the end of your first and second years. This will involve your performance being compared against the Teachers’ Standards (below) – it will also be judged whether you have effectively consolidated your Initial Teacher Training (ITT) or not.

Your performance will be marked as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, or the headteacher may recommend that you are considered for an extension to the ECT period. If you are marked as unsatisfactory, you won’t be allowed to work as a teacher. You only have one chance to pass the induction programme – however, you do have a chance to appeal if you do not pass.

Teachers’ Standards

The Teachers’ Standards, which forms the statutory guidance for NQTs/ECTs (reproduced below; see the Department for Education for the original document) make it necessary for the education of pupils to be teachers’ first concern – teachers are accountable for their students achieving the highest possible standards in both work and conduct. Teachers must act with honesty and integrity; have strong subject knowledge, which is kept up-to-date and which they critically evaluate; forge positive professional relationships; and work with parents in the best interests of their pupils.

This includes:

Setting High Expectations Which Inspire, Motivate, and Challenge Pupilsdrop down menu

You should establish a safe, stimulating environment of mutual respect; set goals that stretch and challenge pupils of all backgrounds, abilities, and dispositions; and consistently demonstrate the positive attitudes, values, and behaviour expected of pupils.

Promoting Good Progress and Outcomes by Pupilsdrop down menu

You will be accountable for pupils’ attainment, progress, and outcomes. You should also be aware of their capabilities and prior knowledge – build your lessons upon this. Additionally, you’ll need to guide pupils to reflect on the progress they have made and their emerging needs; demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how pupils learn and how this impacts on teaching; and encourage pupils to be responsible for – and conscientious about – their own work and study.

Demonstrating Good Subject and Curriculum Knowledgedrop down menu

You should have a secure knowledge and critical understanding of the relevant subject(s) and curriculum areas; foster and maintain pupils’ interest in the subject; and address misunderstandings. Your knowledge must be up-to-date. You should also promote high standards of literacy and articulacy, as well as the correct use of standard English. If you are teaching early reading, you will need to demonstrate a clear understanding of systematic synthetic phonics; if you are teaching early mathematics, you will need to demonstrate a clear understanding of appropriate teaching strategies.

Planning and Teaching Well-Structured Lessonsdrop down menu

This involves using lesson time effectively to impart knowledge and develop understanding; promoting intellectual curiosity and a love of learning; setting homework and planning other out-of-class activities to consolidate and extend knowledge and understanding; reflecting systematically on the effectiveness of lessons and approaches to teaching; and contributing to the design and provision of an engaging curriculum within the relevant subject area(s).

Adapting Teaching to Respond to the Strengths and Needs of All Pupilsdrop down menu

You should know when and how to differentiate appropriately, using approaches which enable pupils to be taught effectively. You must understand how a range of factors can inhibit pupils from learning, and how best to overcome these. Additionally, you should be familiar with the physical, social, and intellectual stages development of children, and know how to adapt teaching to support pupils’ education at each stage. For pupils with high ability, special educational needs, English as an additional language, or disabilities, you should be able to use distinctive teaching approaches (and evaluate the effectiveness of these approaches) to engage and support them.

Making Accurate and Productive Use of Assessmentdrop down menu

This involves knowing and understanding how to assess the relevant subject/curriculum areas, including the requirements of statutory assessments. You should be able to use formative and summative assessments to monitor pupils’ progress, set targets, and plan subsequent lessons, as well as give pupils regular feedback (both orally and through marking) and encourage them to respond to this feedback.

Managing Behaviour Effectively to Ensure a Good and Safe Learning Environmentdrop down menu

In your classroom, you should have clear rules and routines for behaviour, and you should take responsibility for promoting good, courteous behaviour both in classrooms and around the school, in accordance with the school behaviour policy. You must have high expectations of behaviour, and establish a framework for discipline containing a range of strategies – you should use praise, sanctions, and rewards consistently and fairly. Additionally, you should be able to manage classes effectively, using approaches that are appropriate to pupils’ needs, and maintain good relationships with pupils (while also exercising appropriate authority and acting decisively when necessary).

Fulfilling Wider Professional Responsibilitiesdrop down menu

You will need to make a positive contribution to the wider life and ethos of the school; develop effective professional relationships with colleagues, knowing how and when to draw on advice and specialist support; deploy support staff effectively; take responsibility for improving teaching through appropriate professional development, responding to advice and feedback from colleagues; and communicate effectively with parents with regard to pupils’ achievements and wellbeing.

Having High Standards of Personal and Professional Conductdrop down menu

This includes treating pupils with dignity, building relationships rooted in mutual respect, and always observing proper boundaries. You should also have regard to the importance of safeguarding; show tolerance of and respect for the rights of others; not undermine fundamental British values (including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs); and ensure that your personal beliefs are not expressed in ways which exploit pupils’ vulnerability or might lead them to break the law. Finally, you must have proper and professional regard for the ethos, policies, and practices of the school in which you teach, and maintain high standards in your own attendance and punctuality – as well as understanding and acting within the statutory frameworks at all times.

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Interested in CPD Training?

Build on your existing knowledge or learn new skills to help you in the classroom with our CPD courses for teaching staff. Find everything from Challenging Behaviour Training – which contains classroom management tips for new and experienced teachers – to Dyslexia Awareness and Safeguarding Children in Education in our course library.

Tips for Passing Your ECT Years Are:

  • Always pay attention to – and act on – the feedback you receive from your mentor.
  • Make the most of the opportunities you have to ask questions and discuss ideas – ensure that you attend all of your mentoring sessions.
  • Engage with extra training and get the most out of it.
  • Raise any concerns with your induction tutor as soon as possible.

Overall, you should feel well prepared for your assessments in the ECT period – your mentor and induction tutor will ensure that nothing unexpected occurs.

Preparation Tips for Newly Qualified Teachers

In this section, we have collated nine tips to help you prepare for your ECT years.

1. Choosing a School

In England, you can do your ECT years in a:

  • Maintained school.
  • Non-maintained special school.
  • Maintained nursery school.
  • Non-maintained nursery school.
  • Independent nursery school.
  • Nursery school that forms part of a maintained school.
  • Local authority maintained children’s centre.
  • Pupil referral unit (PRU).
  • Independent school.
  • Academy (including 16-19 academies).
  • Free school.
  • City technology college.
  • Further education (FE) institution, including a sixth-form college.
  • Independent school overseas, if it has been inspected within the last six years by a DfE-accredited inspectorate, has been found satisfactory in all categories, and is a member of an organisation which the DfE has determined may represent such schools.
  • School or FE institution in Wales, where you serve your induction period under Welsh regulations.

You can’t do your ECT years in a secure training centre, secure children’s home, school requiring special measures, or a FE institution that has been judged to be inadequate.

When you’re choosing a school, it’s important to find the right one for you – don’t go for the first job you are offered unless you’re sure about it. While all schools should offer the same amount of support, some may meet your needs better than others. You could do supply teaching until the right job comes up, but bear in mind you can only do this for five consecutive years before you need to take a fixed post.

2. Getting to Know Your Students

It’s important that you get to know your students during your induction years – you will be a big part of their lives, and it will help your ECT years to go much more smoothly. Try to remember their names and a few details about them (e.g. strengths and weaknesses, hobbies, any SEND they may have); you can ask other teachers as well as the students themselves in order to acquire this information. It might also help to tell them a few things about you – for example, your likes and dislikes – to improve your relationship with them.

However, although you want to have good relationships with your students, remember that you’re not their friend. You should always aim to be professional and friendly but distant.

3. Planning Lessons

Even before you start the year, you can begin planning by collecting together all the documents you might use, as well as a USB stick to save all your files onto. Once you’ve begun teaching, it’s helpful to plan your lessons in advance – this helps you to feel in control. When planning, remember to:

  • Find out what your students already know – don’t repeat something they have already learnt.
  • Come up with a good aim for the lesson, and plan your activities around that (not vice versa). The core of your lesson plans should always involve a point that you want students to get to, how you can measure that they’ve achieved this, and how you can help them.
  • Be realistic – are you really going to be able to cover what’s in your lesson plan, or will your plan be derailed? You can save you a lot of time and stress about things not going the way you expected by thinking critically about how your students are likely to respond.
  • Keep it simple – don’t have too many activities or objectives. Additionally, don’t over-plan, because it doesn’t usually work; you need to be adaptable.
  • Set a clear rhythm of how the lesson will start, flow, and finish, adding in some dynamic components to keep pupils engaged.
  • Don’t do too much – you need your pupils to get to work, so don’t do too much teaching!

4. Getting to Know Your Colleagues

By establishing relationships with other employees in the school, you will have sources of advice and support, a good professional network, and opportunities to observe them in action. Observations can be extremely helpful in teaching you strategies, approaches, and lesson ideas.

5. Staying Up-to-Date

Remember to make the most of your training during this period and record all the professional development you’re doing on your PDP (for a free downloadable template, click here).

In addition, it’s important to make sure your subject knowledge and knowledge of school policies and procedures is up-to-date – spend some time every now and then reading and researching to make sure.

6. Managing the Classroom

Classroom management is key to being a successful teacher. You need to make sure that your students know that you’re in charge – make your rules, routines, and expectations clear from the very beginning, and reinforce the boundaries if they try to test them. You can find out more tips on classroom management in our article ‘Challenging Behaviour in the Classroom’.

7. Delaying the Years

You can delay your ECT years if you wish to – for example, if you need to take time out for maternity/paternity or adoption leave. There is no limit on when you have to complete the ECT period by, but bear in mind that being out of the classroom for an extended period of time will put you behind those who are fresh out of training when applying for jobs.

8. Considering Your Wellbeing

Don’t forget about your mental health and wellbeing while you’re working – you may be busy, but you’ll need time to destress and be yourself. Spend one night a week doing something that you enjoy to ensure you maintain work/life balance. You’ll be a better teacher if you do this – too much work actually makes you less effective. For more tips on mental health, have a look at our Mental Health Training for Teachers course.

9. Asking for Help

Finally, never be afraid to ask for help. Everyone has been in your shoes once, and their experiences can make yours a lot easier. Your colleagues will be expecting you to ask questions, so don’t feel bad – that’s what they and your mentor are there for!

ECT years – formerly NQT – can be extremely rewarding experiences that set you up for the rest of your teaching career. Make sure that you get the most out of them, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes; that’s how you’ll become the best teacher you can be.

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