Astra NQTs celebrate success




Because we’re happy … the DCGS Astra team and NQTs

With the temperatures set to soar to around 35 degrees on Wednesday 1st July 2015, I soon realised that the ‘hot buffet’ on offer for our 22 Astra NQTs (newly qualified teachers) to celebrate their achievements over the year had taken on a new, and quite literal, meaning!  

However, despite the heat outside, our 22 NQTs inside were cool under the ‘pressure’ to deliver their mini-research presentations from their NQT year in five minutes on topics as diverse as the use of technology to the challenges of differentiation.  Arriving at 1pm for a lunch and having time to network as well as evaluate the Enhancement course, conversations were lively and the mood understandably positive: after all, they had all flourished and survived not only their first year as ‘proper’ teachers, but also been our inaugural cohort of the Astra Enhancement programme!


Astra NQTs get down to business evaluating their year on the Enhancement Programme

Why Astra NQT Enhancement?

As a programme of two half days and 5 twilight sessions, run at no cost and no profit, the sessions covered a wide range of non-subject specific pedagogical topics, from assessment for learning to higher order thinking skills and behaviour management.  These sessions were hosted at different Astra schools. NQTs, in a wide range of secondary subject areas, were encouraged to team up in triads to observe each other teach across schools as well as complete a mini research project into an aspect of their own practice.  

The results and evaluation evidence is both compelling and powerful, with one NQT commenting: The programme has been incredibly well run, by dedicated and supportive staff, who have provided a variety of meetings, events and sessions designed to support and teach us."  Another identified "meeting other NQT students (including those from my own school) and sharing practice and experiences, as well as positive support from Astra organisers" as being particular highlights.  I couldn't have put it better myself!


NQTs and their mentors from The Misbourne School in Great Missenden

To ensure all participants felt suitably inspired for the years of teaching and leadership ahead, we were also joined by our keynote speaker, John Neal from Ashridge Business School, who spoke in an animated and thought-provoking way about the importance of knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. As a sports psychologist, his message of the power of the perceptions and the importance of self-reflection received a hearty round of applause, with many NQTs ‘buzzing’ with new ideas and inspiration.



Our keynote speaker, John Neal, in action

After listening to John’s advice for the future, the NQTs then took to the ‘stage’ to present on their own research findings, giving them valuable leadership opportunities as well as an opportunity to learn from each other.  An audience of supportive mentors, guests and senior leaders looked on - and were unanimously impressed by the standard and commitment of all our newly qualified colleagues from Dr Challoner’s Grammar School, Dr Challoner’s High School, The Wycombe Grange, The Misbourne, The Amersham School and Chesham Grammar School.  


Congratulations! The Dr Challoner’s High School NQTs stay cool by raising a glass (of water!) to their successes in 2014/15

In 2015/16, the Enhancement Programme for NQTs will continue to run, going from strength to strength with a new cohort and involving more partner schools.  Our launch afternoon is from 1-4pm on Wednesday 23rd September at Dr Challoner’s Grammar School and the dates for the twilight sessions are: 12th November; 8th December; 14th January; 2nd March; 12th May, and the final celebration afternoon will be on 29th June 2016.

If you would like to be involved in participating or delivering on the programme, or to find out more, please email Gill Byrne at the Astra Alliance (Dr Challoner’s Grammar School) on, or give us a call on 01494 787573.

Stephanie Rodgers, July 2015