Kristy Young, a Fellow at Ambition Institute, discusses the Early Career Framework and our Early Career Teachers programme.
Here, she outlines what we’ve learnt so far and how this learning is benefiting our new, DfE-funded Early Career Teachers programme.
The retention challenge
The Early Career Framework 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. Department for Education data shows that 8.1% of all teachers left the profession between 2020 and 2021, with 12.5% of newly qualified teachers leaving the profession in 2021. Although retention rates have improved on pre-pandemic levels, it is important that teachers, especially those early in their career, feel supported and empowered to remain in the classroom
We 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 early career teachers and emphasises the need for support and training for them.
What learnings have gone into our programme?
At Ambition, we’ve gained several important and valuable insights into what aspects of the programme are most likely to be successful and what challenges schools may face when implementing the Early Career Framework.
We know 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 early career teacher 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 this, 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 early career teacher support.
Early feedback from ECTs on their mentors is positive. A Department for Education evaluation of the first cohort on the Early Career Framework found that 94% of early career teachers had a good relationship with their mentor and 93% highly rated the support received from their mentor.
"The online content is excellent – it gives myself and my ECT 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
At Ambition Institute, we have experience delivering the Early Career Framework to around 30,000 new teachers and their mentors on our Early Career Teachers programme. Early Career Teachers is fully-funded by the Department for Education and available nationally. It provides early career teachers, 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 ECT support is headed then the quality of the teaching is going to skyrocket."- Paul Fermor, English teacher, Towers School
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
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 who designed our Early Career Teacher programme bring lots of diverse experience:
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.
Genevieve Field, Director of Teacher Training, has successfully led multiple teaching programmes including Initial Teacher Training programmes since 2013
Peps Mccrea, Dean of Best Practice who oversaw the Early Career Teachers programme design, is an award-winning teacher educator, designer and author
"Coaching combined with the use of small action steps has been integral in improving ECT practice in actionable steps."- Andy Jones, Vice Principal, The de Ferrers Academy
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 programme 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.
Find out more about Early Career Teachers, our DfE-funded programme.