I’ve been a member of the Professional Support Team (PST) in my school for the past two years and we have supported 12 NQT’s through the process during this time. There are four PST members in my school. Three of us completed mentor training and mentored NQT’s for two years before Droichead was introduced in our school so we have a good amount of experience between us. I have been teaching for 7-8 years and the rest of the team have between 10-20 years experience each so we all have something to offer to the NQT’s in our school. I teach in a very large school (there are 7/8 of each class level) and nearly 800 pupils from 3rd to 6th class. While the PST are the official co-ordinators of the Droichead process in my school, we have a very supportive staff so lots of people offer to help and are happy to allow NQT’s into their classrooms to observe in a variety of areas.
What is Droichead?
Droichead is a form of induction for newly qualified teachers during their first year of teaching. When I qualified in 2011 the only form of induction for newly qualified teachers was the ‘dip’ which involved an inspector from the Department of Education arriving unannounced to the school to inspect the teacher. At this inspection – the teacher was expected to have their plans up to date, assessment folder ready for inspection and the inspector would usually stay for an hour or two to inspect the teacher teaching, their classroom management and would also look at the children’s work and classroom displays. The inspector would then give feedback based on the lesson/plans etc. In general there were two inspections during the school year (sometimes more depending on whether the NQT met the criteria etc.
With Droichead a Professional Support Team is established in each school (not all schools are Droichead schools) with members of staff who choose or are asked to train with the NIPT and to support NQT’s in their school. The Droichead process is a series of non evaluative observations by a member of the PST and there is also the opportunity for the NQT to observe other staff members. As well as this, the NQT must complete cluster meetings in their local education centre. The NQT is still expected to complete plans, keep an assessment folder, and also complete a Taisce (which is a reflective portfolio). The PST may also arrange for workshops in the school or advise the NQT to attend workshops in their local education centre based on areas where the NQT requires further support. (This is decided upon by the NQT and the PST together.) Droichead aims to be a collaborative process where the PST support the NQT during their first years teaching.
How it works in my school
This is our second year doing Droichead so we are still learning about what works best for us in our school. This is a basic overview. (NQT’s also required to complete Cluster meetings in their local education centre)
- In September we meet with the NQT’s and introduce ourselves and explain the process. We also discuss the roles that the NQT’s are in (This year all our NQT’s were in support roles) and answer any questions they have so far. We then plan out workshops for the year based on the needs of the NQT’s. Our focus this year was on; planning and assessment, classroom management, working with children with additional needs, team teaching, resources, parent teacher meetings etc.
- Plans were handed to the principal on a weekly basis.
- We aimed to complete one workshop per month (some months we did two) and these were held during lunch time or after school.
- We have 4 members of the PST in my school but 2 members were away this year do there were only 2 of us and 6 NQT’s so we took 3 NQT’s each. We have found it is nice for the NQT’s to have one ‘go- to’ person each and they do the first observation with the NQT. (The second PST member does the second observation to make sure everything is fair).
- We then arranged for the NQT’s to observe the PST members in a subject/area of their choice and also to observe another member of staff. (This happened in late September/October)
- We then discussed an area that the NQT would like to be observed in and the PST members observed the NQT’s in this area and provided feedback afterwards.
- More workshops were then completed and then the next set of observations took place.
- Taisce portfolios were kept by the NQT’s throughout the year and following the second observations, discussions etc. these were shared.
- Sign off (Form D’s sent to Teaching Council)
I asked anyone who completed the Droichead Process to share their thoughts about it (Instagram) and I was delighted to get a huge amount of responses. The vast majority of responses (from NQT’s) was very positive.
- Process can be completed in a mainstream class, support role or SEN setting.
- 60 days minimum requirement (process can be completed if offered a maternity contract)
- Continuous support
- Opportunity to observe an experienced teacher (in an area of your choice)
- Less of an inspection feel (NQT picks the lesson and the focus of the lesson they would like the PST to observe)
- Focus on real life teaching (as opposed to waiting for external inspectors)
- PST have an understanding of school life – particularly to my school and therefore could give appropriate feedback and support rather than an external inspector who may not be familiar with the school, the children and the day to day life in the school.
- Completed the Droichead process in a support role. NQT doesn’t feel ready to take on a class without Droichead support next year.
- Weekly plans (These are a requirement during college and during the Droichead process but once Droichead has been completed teachers can then plan fortnightly and many NQT’s felt unprepared for this as they had only completed weekly plans before then).
- Other teachers lack of knowledge and opinions towards Droichead (a lot being negative)
- If there is more than one NQT then it can be awkward if one person finishes the Droichead process before the other (if one person needs more support and more than 2 observations)
- May not get on with PST members
- Not always treated fairly or equally (some schools have different expectations than others etc.)
I am a member of the PST in my school and I got lots of feedback from PST members in other schools too. I personally enjoy being a member of the PST and supporting NQT’s but I feel it is a huge amount of work for no payment and I think this needs to be changed!
- It’s a way to get new ideas from teachers who have just finished college
- Get to know the new teachers in the school
- Provide support – give back and help out
- Good for the CV
- Droichead can be completed both in support and mainstream settings which is on one hand a positive but it does always create problems as a support role and a mainstream role are very different jobs. Many NQT’s are not fully ready to take on a role in a mainstream classroom after completing Droichead in a resource setting.
- 60 days is not enough time to complete the process
- There can be NQT’s at different stages of the process (depending on when they started in the school) which can be very difficult to manage.
- Difficult conversations (things are not going well/ NQT not listening or taking the advice on board)
- It can be difficult to be a colleague and also a PST member (while Droichead is meant to be a non -evaluative process the PST still need to sign off on the NQT and complete observations and give feedback so it is seen to be evaluative by many NQT’s and other members of staff.)
- Very difficult to get sub cover (this is provided based on the number of NQT’s in the school) but this is something that isn’t always possible
- Amount of work involved with no payment etc.
Further information on the Droichead Process and useful resources can be found
More thoughts and suggestions
- I think Droichead and the Dip should be scrapped altogether. Teachers now spend up to 4 years in college and complete teaching placement where they are assessed on their planning, classroom management, assessment, displays etc. Host teachers should be given an opportunity to offer their feedback on the student teacher and further support from the college should be provided to the student teachers in the areas where they need it.
- Teachers should be provided with a mentor in their schools where support is provided by experienced members of staff (These staff members should be paid for providing this support).
- An online forum should be set up (similar to the question sessions I provide on Wednesdays on Instagram) where NQT’s can ask questions and seek clarification from an experienced teacher (again this teacher should be paid for providing the support).
Other alternative viewpoints on Droichead can be found below from Simon from anseo.net