‘I’m Being Measured as an NQT, That Isn’t Who I Am’: An Exploration of the Experiences of Career Changer Primary Teachers in their First Year of Teaching

Aug. 15, 2010

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 16, No. 4, (August 2010),
p. 461-475.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article explores the experiences of three primary school NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher ) career changers from a PGCE primary programme at a university in England.
The experiences of the participants’ first year of teaching in their respective primary schools are explored through a constructive grounded theory methodology.

The analysis draws on notions from Lave and Wenger’s and Wenger’s work on communities of practice, in particular, ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ (1991, 1998) and ‘leverage’ (Wenger, 1998) and their significance for job satisfaction in the NQT year.

The participants- Rhiannon (30) a solicitor, Ed (31) a retail manager and Arthur (31) a consultant systems analyst- were part of an opportunistic sample who self-defined as career changers/second career teachers. They were selected from a larger study of a PGCE cohort (2002–2003).

Four semi-structured interviews took place with each participant at the end of their training and during their NQT year 2003–2004. Interviews covered life history, previous professional experience of work, reasons for change, expectations of their first school and finally levels of job satisfaction and ambitions for the future.


The research found that ‘being managed’ effectively contributed to NQT retention in school. Work life balance was important and in two cases, acknowledgement of previous experience.
In addition, their positioning in relation to their previous work experience was significant in achieving job satisfaction.

A key factor for 30-year-old career changers was the wish to start a family and accommodate their work with their new commitments. Those who saw themselves as experienced newcomers and wished their previous work experience to be acknowledged found that it was variably capitalised upon in primary teaching.
The data also suggest that being ‘different’ in this paper – male or gay teachers was problematic.

Being managed: implications for practice

The notion of engaging past identity, especially work identity, with projected primary teacher identity is a useful tool for trainees to be introduced to during training.
Furthermore, one-to-one mentoring can be a strength in terms of neither under or overestimating what an NQT can accomplish. However for some NQTs, whole school involvement (Williams, Prestage, & Bedward, 2001) is worth consideration for what it offers in terms of diversity of practice upon which NQTs can model their identity.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. 1991. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Williams, A., Prestage, S. and Bedward, J. 2001. Individualism to collaboration: The significance of teacher culture to the induction of newly qualified teachers. Journal of Education for Teaching, 27(3): 253–267

Updated: Jul. 26, 2011