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NQT Diaries Part 4: Social Justice, The Assessment Rollercoaster and an Overly Illustrated Whale

Our trainees experience the highs and lows of assessment, a disheartening conference and excessive, extravagant, intolerable, unconscionable synonym abuse...

  • NQT Diaries Part 4: Social Justice, The Assessment Rollercoaster and an Overly Illustrated Whale

In the fourth of a five-part series we document the year of three fresh-faced teachers ready to make a big difference. Click here to read parts 1, 2 and 3


Sophie Hemery

“There are various prerequisites to teaching social justice and climate change, but right now, any or all of these may be absent in your school”

Year group: 4
Favourite subject: English and geography

Last week I went to an inspiring conference and workshop day called This Changes Everything, about climate change and social justice. The hundreds of people and prominent speakers spent the day discussing how to create a fairer society based on sustainability.

Evaluating the day afterwards with a teacher friend, we expressed our concerned confusion that education’s role in creating a just and sustainable society was hardly mentioned. Perhaps education is so fundamental that it’s, counter-intuitively, easy to overlook.

My friend and I considered our respective experiences when approaching social and environmental issues with our classes. We decided on various prerequisites to valuable teaching and learning about social justice and climate change: a progressive curriculum, sufficient time, enough focus on holistic, as opposed to results-driven, education and engaged teachers and leadership teams.

Right now, for many different reasons, any or all of these prerequisites may be absent in your school. But this is our pupils’ future we are talking about – something needs to change.


Joe McCloskey

“The satisfaction of seeing the progression of my students was fantastic, the marking and data analysis, however, was not.”

Year group: 5
Favourite subject: English/MFL

My first foray into primary assessment has been a stressful, yet satisfying, experience.

Before I entered teaching, I was told repeatedly by my mentors and lecturers that it was a profession full of the most extreme highs and lows, but little did I know that a lot of them came from the assessment period alone.

The satisfaction of seeing the progression of my students was fantastic, the marking and data analysis, however, was not.

The pupil assessments have helped me not only assess the current levels of my pupils, but also my own teaching methods. With teaching it is easy to get caught up in the day to day, meaning the past couple of months have been a blur.

However, through these assessments, I have been able to see all the efforts I have put into my teaching come to fruition.

The satisfaction of seeing these children grow has been by far the biggest high of all.


Holly Cuthbert

“I wasn’t sure how to respond to, ‘The adventurous, heroic, spunky, gallant, sizeable, fat, vast whale swam across the blue, navy, turquoise, sparking, shiny sea’.”

Year group: 2
Favourite subject: Science

One of my aims at the beginning of the year was to improve my children’s word choices in their writing. I grew tired of coming across the same few adjectives again and again, despite frequently reminding them to use exciting words.

To try to support my class, I planned a lesson that involved using thesauruses, and the result was definitely interesting. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond when I was presented with, ‘The adventurous, heroic, spunky, gallant, sizeable, fat, vast whale swam across the blue, navy, turquoise, sparking, shiny sea’.

We now have a strict two-adjectives-per-noun policy.

To continue supporting my children’s vocabulary I have now introduced ‘Wow Word of the Week’ in my classroom. The words we’ve had so far have included astonished, magnificent, ponder, gingerly, speechless, reeking and glided, and, impressively, the children have proved to me that all the ‘Wow Words’ to date can be put into a single, sensible sentence.

Read the final instalment of the NQT Diaries with Part 5 here.


Learning to lead

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