New teachers need more tailored support to help 'practice shock', NFER report finds

Schools need to give early career teachers more personalised support rather than just evaluate them with a “one-size-fits-all” approach, new research urges.

New teachers commonly experience “practice shock” when they begin teaching and need frequent meetings with their mentors to state the areas they specifically want help in, according to the National Foundation for Educational Research.

However the report found few schools use research to inform their CPD decisions.

Researchers interviewed 22 professional development leads across 20 schools with above-average rates of retention for new teachers, as well as more than 70 early to mid-career teachers who have taught between one and 10 years. The goal was to unearth best practice for continuous professional development for newly and recently qualified teachers.

It follows a government focus on retention of early career teachers, as recent figures show a third of new teachers quit the classroom within five years of qualifying. In May, the government announced trainees will still qualify after one year but remain in their “induction period” for two years instead of one to provide extra support.

The research found schools with the most successful programmes always matched newly qualified teachers – qualified teachers in their first year of teaching – with a mentor with the same subject or age phase specialism as them, to ensure their advice was relevant to them.

Newly qualified teachers told the NFER they especially wanted help with behaviour management, assessment and how to support pupils with special educational needs.

For recently qualified teachers in their second to fifth year of teaching, the best schools showed them how to aim for middle leadership roles and other new roles and responsibilities. These teachers also wanted to “shadow” the most experienced teachers in teaching key classes such as year 6, GCSE and A-level to aim for these in future.

But the researchers warned that because there is no statutory requirement for schools to provide training and support specifically for teachers who have left their two-year induction period, dedicated support for this group “appeared to be limited” in many of the schools.

The best schools assigned a buddy to these teachers, to continue to understand their specific needs at this later stage of their development.

The report highlighted Norwegian research called the Evaluation of the Guidance System for Graduates in Kindergarten and Schools which found participants said mentoring in particular reduced “practice shock”.

Bad practice unearthed by researchers included only telling a newly qualified teacher late in the summer term that they are underperforming. This came as a “total surprise” to many and had left no time to remedy the situation, researchers warned. New teachers should get frequent, tailored mentoring sessions so feedback is regular.

A lack of different kinds of support, such as peer-to-peer mentoring, also left new teachers feeling frustrated. Another issue was only a few new teachers being sent on external training  and then feeding back to others.

However, researchers found a lack of evidence to back up even the best programmes in the schools.

Evidence was usually described by CPD leads in terms of teacher feedback or perceptions, rather than in terms of research evidence, said the report.

Where staff were drawing on research evidence to inform their provision, the NFER found only limited evidence that this was being systematically monitored.