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NQT Diaries Part 1: Three Teach First Participants Walk us Through Their Start in Primary Education

After the first six-weeks of intensive teacher training, our NQTs share the good and bad of life in the most demanding of professions...

  • NQT Diaries Part 1: Three Teach First Participants Walk us Through Their Start in Primary Education

In the first of a five-part series we document the year of three fresh-faced teachers ready to make a big difference.


Sophie Hemery

“I still won’t accept that a positive, healthy work-life balance is out of the question”

Year group: 4
Favourite subject: English and geography

The most motivating moments over the past month or so have revolved around watching children grow. Day by day, I see developments in every one of them.

I don’t think I ever had total faith that the impact of teaching would be so… apparent. Whether it’s growing self-belief, improved spelling, advancing language skills or developing emotional literacy, seeing my class grow is, I imagine, what will keep me going.

When ‘they’ told me it’d be hard – that I’d have no social life and could forget work-free weekends and holidays – I refused to belief that it had to be that way. But, as I sit here writing, I have cancelled a plan with a friend to make time for maths planning.

I still won’t accept that a positive, healthy work-life balance is out of the question, but my conviction lowers as my stress-levels rise.


Joe McCloskey

“Did I have any idea what they would or wouldn’t actually know? Absolutely not.”

Year group: 5
Favourite subject: English/MFL

You will be teaching Year 5. Brilliant, I thought. They can all read and they can all write, can’t they?

I spent a week over the summer preparing my display boards, laminating lots of inspirational quotes and writing name after name onto lolly sticks. I learnt how to pronounce all the children’s names and the levels they had attained. Did I have any idea what they would or wouldn’t actually know? Absolutely not. Did I know how I should expect 30 ten year olds to behave? I had no idea.

Five weeks of teaching and a one-week residential trip later, I can now say they are very much my class. I now know my children. I know what their favourite subjects are, what they like doing at the weekend and, most importantly, what makes them smile.

It hasn’t been easy, but I am really looking forward to the year ahead. I think my class is too.


Holly Cuthbert

“I hated breaking the news that desert rabbits do not have incredibly large ears to catch their food”

Year group: 2
Favourite subject: Science

At the start of the term I felt ready for the challenges ahead of me. I felt prepared to deal with disruptive behaviour, EAL children, and hours and hours of planning. I did not, however, predict the uproar and confusion I would face when I told my Year 2 class I had never heard of Elsa from Frozen, Box Trolls, or Loom bands.

As a result of this unexpected embarrassment, I have spent a large amount of my limited free time fitting in children’s television to get my subject knowledge up to scratch for the kids.

In and around the array of challenges there have been some very enjoyable moments too. My favourite so far have involved being at the receiving end of my children’s curious questions. Although I hated breaking the news that desert rabbits do not have incredibly large ears to catch their food, it’s a pleasure to experience the children’s thought processes.

However, questioning me on the names of shapes with more than eight sides during an inspection was some curiosity I could have done without!

Carry on the NQT journey with Part 2 here.


Learning to lead

Teach First’s Leadership Development Programme (teachfirst.org.uk) is delivered across England and Wales.

Through the support of universities, schools and Teach First, the programme offers participants a two-year teacher training programme in schools exclusively serving low-income communities.

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