I’ve just completed Day 2 of the Droichead Training for members of the Professional Support Team and I wanted to share my thoughts of the Droichead Programme. I’m by no means an expert in Droichead – our school will be a Droichead school this year as we have more than 24 mainstream class teachers and any NQT’s in our school can only be fully probated if we adopt the Droichead programme.
When I first heard about Droichead, I was a NQT myself. I had just finished my Dip and had a mentor in the school I was working in. I went along to an INTO meeting about Droichead and was the only NQT there. Many people including myself were against Droichead. I felt that as someone who had just completed the Dip that my relationship with fellow members of staff would not be the same if those members of staff were going to decide whether I would/would not pass my probation period. I was worried about the atmosphere that would exist in the staff room and if everyone would know of my mistakes/problems I was having in my classroom.
For principals/other teachers – they felt they had so much to do already that they wouldn’t be able to support an NQT in this way and didn’t want to become ‘inspectors’.
My own experience
When I first qualified, I subbed for a year and had short term contracts in resource/learning support. During my second year, I got a temporary contract and had a mentor in my school – this mentor was a fantastic source of support and encouragement throughout the year and I was very grateful for all her help.
After that, I went to Brighton, where there were lots of observations/assessments of teachers throughout the school year. I taught in a school that was incredibly unsupportive and found the atmosphere and negativity too much! I left the school and subsequently began working as a supply teacher in two other schools – I never had observations in either school but I did notice the atmosphere of fear and negativity that surrounded days when observations were taking place by senior members of staff. I saw lots of stressed out teachers and many teachers who left their classrooms in tears on the day of observations.
I returned to Ireland and I decided to train as a mentor for NQT’s with NIPT. I have been working as a mentor in my school for the last 2 years and I’ve worked with lots of NQT’s in my school and also through Irish Primary Teacher.
In the past, newly qualified teachers could complete their Dip in a mainstream classroom in 100 days. The teacher would be visited twice (usually) during this time by an inspector from the Department of Education and would either pass their probation, be given a third visit or fail their probation.
Personally, I think there are a lot of flaws with this system;
- Can 1/2 visits really determine whether a teacher is fully competent?
- We all have bad days – what happens if the inspector comes on a bad day?
- Inspector doesn’t know the children/school context etc. very well
- ‘Perfect lessons’ for when the inspector comes
I wrote a blogpost a long time ago questioning if there was really any need for the ‘Dip’ at all. You can read that here.
I think that so much of our learning as teachers happens in the classroom. Teaching practice can only prepare us for so much but there are so many different things that you can only learn from doing them yourself.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I am very new to the Droichead process. I have worked as a mentor for the past 2 years but our school is only engaging with the Droichead process this year. I have completed 2 days of training but I still have 2 more days of training to complete in the next few weeks. So here is a brief overview (sharing my understanding of the process).
There is a professional support team (PST) in each school that supports NQT’s through the Droichead process. The PST is made up of experienced teachers (who should have at least 5 years of experience). Further information available here.
The NQT needs to engage with school based induction (meetings with PST, observations of more experienced teachers – at least twice , being observed by PST team – at least twice followed by a professional conversation/discussion based on the observation and keep a reflective journal (taisce).
The NQT also needs to engage with additional professional learning activities which can include workshops, cluster meetings (on areas that the NQT would like further support in/specific to their needs/school setting – e.g. Aistear, SEN, Multi-grade teaching etc.) You can find out more information here.
Lots of information can be found on the NIPT website here.
Concerns that remain
- Who will monitor the Professional Support Team? (A NQT can voice their concerns with the principal, NIPT if they feel they haven’t been treated fairly but will a NQT really be in a position to do this?)
- Will the relationships between the PST and NQT’s be the same as with other staff members?
- What will happen to the inspectorate? What will they do with all the time that is now free as they will no longer be inspecting NQT’s?