Piloting new approaches for early career teachers and their mentors

Feb. 12, 2020
Kristy Young

Kristy Young

Fellow, Ambition Institute

Kristy Young, a Fellow at Ambition Institute, led on our pilot implementation of the Early Career Framework.

Here, she outlines what we’ve learnt from the pilot so far, and how this learning is benefiting our new, fully-funded Early Career Teachers programme.

The retention challenge

We’re on the cusp of a new era in the teaching profession. The Early Career Framework (ECF) published by the Department for Education (DfE) in January 2019 is one of the most significant reforms to the teaching profession in a generation, with the potential to considerably improve the skills of our teacher workforce.

The challenges of retaining our early career teachers (ECTs) have become an important focus in recent years. Retention rates of ECTs dropped significantly between 2012 and 2018 (Walker et al, 2018) and, according to DfE statistics, over 15% of those who were NQTs in 2017 had left the profession by last year.

We also know from a substantial evidence-base that the quality of teaching is the biggest lever in improving pupil outcomes. With the best teachers, pupils learn twice as fast and disadvantaged pupils learn just as much as their advantaged peers.

This is why it is so crucial we develop our early career teachers - to keep them in the profession and to set them on a path of continuous improvement in order to improve outcomes for their pupils.

What is the Early Career Framework?

The DfE released the Early Career Framework in 2019. It recognises that the nurture and support early career teachers receive can make or break a teaching career, and that improving the quality of this support has the potential to revolutionise our education system.

The Framework lengthens induction for early career teachers to two years, increases their entitlement to support and training and specifies content to be covered during induction. It also recognises how integral the role of the mentor is to the development of ECTs and emphasises the need for support and training for them.

Developed with some of the most credible and experienced education professionals, the Framework and its underpinning evidence has been independently endorsed by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

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The Ambition Institute pilot

Last year we were chosen to pioneer approaches to the delivery of the Early Careers Framework. This pilot programme, funded by the Education Endowment Foundation, began last September with over 300 mentors, early career teachers and induction leads, and we’ve already seen an overwhelmingly positive response:

"The pilot has undoubtedly improved the quality of mentoring… coaching combined with the use of small action steps has been integral in improving NQT practice in actionable steps."

- Andy Jones, Vice Principal, The de Ferrers Academy

What have we learned from the pilot?

We’ve gained hugely valuable insights into what aspects of the programme are successful and what challenges schools may face when implementing the ECF. As a result, we have adapted the programme iteratively in response to these insights.

We’ve learned that the role of the mentor is critical, specifically the mentor's own expertise in teaching and how they break this down for a novice learner. This also includes setting the time aside to effectively mentor.

In successful schools:

  • regular meetings are enabled between the early career teacher and mentor
  • the mentor has the expertise to diagnose ECT needs and coach them
  • the mentor’s role is valued, prioritised and supported

This means the mentor becomes seen as a vital tool in developing teacher expertise across the school and they are provided with the training, support and resources to do so effectively. Too often we see mentoring as a bolt-on, with little to no training given, no opportunities to develop professionally as a mentor and very little time given to mentor effectively.

Based on these learnings, we’ve placed mentors at the heart of early career teacher development with the belief that investing in mentor development is the key to transforming ECT support.

" The pilot had revolutionised the support I’m able to provide my NQT. The online content is excellent – it gives myself and my NQT a weekly focus and goes into much more depth than I ever have before. The granular action steps are having a huge impact on my practice."

- Philippa Bastock, National Lead Practitioner, Oasis Academy Warndon

The Early Career Teachers programme

We’re in a unique position at Ambition Institute as we are the only provider chosen to deliver both the EEF pilot programme and the first phase of the Early Career Teachers programme.

This means we’re the only provider to have already trialled multiple approaches with schools in a variety of contexts – we’ve worked very closely with the schools on the pilot and their continual feedback has meant we’ve been able to learn from, and continually improve the programme.

Our Early Career Teachers course is fully-funded by the DfE, and is available in Greater Manchester, Bradford, Doncaster and across the North East. It provides NQTs, their mentors and induction leads with:

  • High quality curriculum materials which we have developed iteratively based on feedback from the pilot
  • Virtual development sessions with expert teacher educators
  • Training, support and materials specifically related to Instructional Coaching

"If this is where the NQT support is headed then the quality of the teaching is going to skyrocket."

- Paul Fermor, English teacher, Towers School
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Instructional Coaching

Evidence suggests that Instructional Coaching is currently one of the strongest forms of CPD in terms of pupil outcomes and, because of this, it forms the backbone of our Early Career Teachers programme – the course focuses on investing time and energy in the day-to-day support of early career teachers as the most effective way to improve their practice.

Rooted in the principles of developing expertise, arguably the most important factor in the success of Instructional Coaching is the expertise of the coach. So, a core part of the programme is not only developing the early career teachers but also developing the coaching skills and expertise of their mentors.

Schools are already seeing the direct impact of using Instructional Coaching:

"Choosing the pre-populated action steps has had the biggest impact on our mentors."

- Simon Renshaw, Deputy Head, Orchard Mead Academy

Training materials

A vital part of the support we’re giving to mentors and early career teachers is our online training materials.

For mentors this includes a coaching guide broken down into an easily digestible weekly focus on a specific area of the Early Career Framework. And for early career teachers, the framework has been broken down into modules designed to exemplify and explain, cumulatively build on knowledge and develop in complexity.

"The curriculum is the most well-resourced and carefully curated programme. Huge shout out to the masterminds writing and sequencing. Very much appreciated."

- Simon Renshaw, Deputy Head, Orchard Mead Academy

The team

The team behind the Early Career Teacher programme is extremely well placed to be designing and delivering the course.

Marie Hamer, Executive Director at Ambition Institute, was on the Advisory Group for the Early Career Framework, meaning she has a great understanding of its development and evolution.

Our design and delivery faculty also have diverse experiences working in the education sector and as teacher educators:

  • Genevieve Field, Dean and Programme Lead has successfully led multiple teaching programmes including Initial Teacher Training programmes since 2013
  • Peps Mccrea, the Dean who oversees the Early Career Teachers programme design, is an award-winning teacher educator, designer and author
  • Kyle Bailey, Associate Dean, school governor and teacher on our Masters in Expert Teaching, leads on the design of our online materials

Designed for teachers, by teachers

Crucially though, the team have all been teachers. The programme has been designed by teachers for teachers and particular attention has been paid to making the material accessible, relevant, and directly related to classroom practice – incredibly important for busy teachers.

The team’s experiences in teaching and working with educators across the country, coupled with their expertise in the most up-to-date research, has given teachers the confidence that the pilot has been designed to work in their specific school context with their mentors and early career teachers.

Ambition Institute is absolutely committed to making the Early Career Framework work because we know that developing high-quality teachers is key to our vision of an education system where every child can thrive, no matter what their background.

Learn more

Find out more about Early Career Teachers, our fully-funded programme in Greater Manchester, Bradford, Doncaster and the North East.

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