During the academic year 2022-2023, which marks the second and final year of the implementation of the NEST project in Catalonia, the Department of Education has launched the Sensei project as a pilot program to be implemented in the next two school years (2023-2024 and 2024-2025). The Department of Education is responsible for educational policy in the field of non-university education in Catalonia.

The Sensei project is an initial teacher residency program that aims to provide quality support to new teachers during their first year in the profession. The program recognizes mentoring as a key tool to ensure that new teachers feel supported and empowered and values the school as a professional learning environment. This way, new teachers can generate a positive impact on the well-being and learning of the students from the very first moment they enter the classroom.

Since the beginning of the NEST project, which has been promoted in Catalonia by Empieza por Educar (ExE), there has been a close relationship with the Department of Education. This fluid communication has allowed for the project to share good practices and the challenges identified through the implementation of NEST. The Sensei program’s training for mentors has been shaped and contributed to by the NEST policy experiment’s findings.

NEST and Sensei share the objectives they pursue and the logistical aspects, allowing for both projects to be developed within the Catalan educational system. Like NEST, Sensei defines two key figures: the novice teacher (who enters the profession) and the mentor teacher (who will be the personal and professional reference for the novice teacher in their school).

The pilot Sensei program will support 100 novice secondary school teachers and 150 novice primary school teachers as mentees. It will be implemented in 60 schools, and up to 85 experienced teachers will be trained to become mentors.

The novice teachers will be assigned to one of the schools participating in the Sensei program for one school year, but this does not mean they will join the staff of the hosting Sensei school. Novice teachers will work 37.5 hours per week, with half a day dedicated to teaching and the other half to following the training program, which will include seminars, workshops, online training capsules, residencies in other schools, and participation in learning communities with other teachers from across the Sensei program.

On another front, mentor teachers will have a reduced teaching load, up to a maximum of 50%, in order to accompany the novice through the mentoring process. They will also receive training and support from experts to help them develop their mentor role.

The launch of Sensei is eagerly anticipated, with the prospect of continuing to employ the NEST learnings to enhance the quality of education and its policy design, particularly regarding the teacher induction process. Both the ExE team, as leaders in the NEST implementation in Spain pilots, and the NEST consortium, believe that this is excellent news for the education system in the region, and a successful example of multi-stakeholder collaborations to influence policy reform in education.

Photo: NEST tutor accompanying a mentor teacher