Luke Nichols, NQT Psychology at Sir Harry Smith Community College

“I have a mentor who I meet with every week and who observes me teaching every half term. It is a great chance to talk through my progress and gain advice.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

I grew up in Kings Lynn, in quite a low aspiration area and I didn’t really value my education. However, when I did my A Levels and was able to choose the subjects I enjoyed, I began to appreciate the importance and value of learning. I had some brilliant teachers who taught in such an engaging way and they really inspired me. After that, I knew I wanted to pursue a teaching career.

How did you become a teacher?
After completing my A Levels, I attended Anglia Ruskin University where I studied Psychology. Once I gained my degree, I did my PGCE at the University of Leicester and I qualified last year. I am now working as a newly qualified teacher (NQT) at Sir Harry Smith Community College.

What has been the best part of the job so far?
The most rewarding and enjoyable part of being a teacher for me is definitely seeing the difference you can make. It is more than the measurable grades, it is helping the students to grow in confidence. To see a student have the confidence to answer a question in class, even if they might get it wrong, is brilliant and is so important to their learning.

What has been the most challenging part of the job?
Because I specialise in Psychology, I teach the older students who are assessed externally through GCSE and A Level exams. Initially, it was challenging to get my head around the different examining boards and exam terminology, but I was fortunate to have a great support system at work and my colleagues helped me to quickly understand.

What support networks are in place for NQTs in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire?
There is great support in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire at all levels. At my college, I have a mentor who I meet with every week and who observes me teaching every half term. It is a great chance to talk through my progress and gain advice. My department has also been excellent and very supportive.

The senior leadership team (SLT) at the college proactively support NQTs and encourages lots of continued professional development (CPD) opportunities. For example, one member of the SLT team has made strong links with a teaching alliance with another school in the area. Now NQTs from both schools can meet once every half term at Witchford Village College for CPD training. It is nice to get to know a group of people who are in the same situation as you and share your experiences. There are also NQT conferences held by Cambridgeshire County Council and regional teaching networks which are great for CPD and meeting other NQTs.

What are the best things about teaching and living in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire?
There are lots of opportunities for teachers in the area including CPD training and network meetings. I have found this really helps with progression and personal development. The area also provides great opportunities for students as they can get involved in a variety of extra-curricular activities, from sports to charities. Although I don’t currently live in the area, I think the strong sense of community and belonging makes it a lovely place to live. I work in Whittlesey, which has a ‘no one left behind’ mentality which I really like.