How two teachers built their confidence with the Early Career Framework

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Date published 26 September 2023

Faizah and Tarek are celebrating. As teachers at Bristnall Hall Academy in the West Midlands, they’ve just successfully completed their induction period through Ambition Institute’s Early Career Teachers programme.

The programme was led locally by Academy Transformation Trust who partner with Ambition Institute to deliver high quality professional development programmes to teachers and leaders in their schools and wider network.

The Early Career Framework was rolled out nationally in 2021 as a two-year entitlement to evidence-based development for teachers at the start of their career. Faizah Hussain and Tarek Bilanli are therefore part of the first cohort of teachers to have completed their induction period on the framework and have benefitted from the extra support it has offered in the form of mentoring.

On the day they complete the programme, Faizah and Tarek share how they have developed, alongside their respective mentors - Debra Jones, an English teacher and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Coordinator, and Bristnall Hall’s head of history, Nicola Griffiths.

Faizah and Debra

Today is an especially big moment for Faizah. Faizah had initially found her entry into a full-time teaching environment difficult. She was even tempted to give up her dream of teaching during her PGCE, due to a lack of support. A couple of years later, she is brimming with confidence and doing a fantastic job for her pupils.

“When I first started my PGCE, I was a bit quiet. I wasn’t confident about standing in front of 30 children,” Faizah says. “But in the last two years, my confidence has built. Now, I know what's right for my pupils, I understand my strengths, and if there's anything that I need to develop, I know I can.”

Faizah says that she was able to develop her confidence with the Early Career Framework and the additional support and training it provides. As part of her induction, Faizah, who teaches English, was entitled to regular coaching sessions from a more experienced member of staff – Debra Jones.

“I found it easy to speak to Debra and come to her with any questions I had,” says Faizah. “I’d just walk into her room in the morning and ask whatever I needed to know, no matter how stupid I thought it was. And I know that next year I’ll still be doing that.”

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Faizah has faced tough classes over the last two years. But tapping into Debra’s experience and using learnings from the programme, she was able to work through these challenges.

“I was getting quite annoyed at myself at first because I wasn't seeing gradual improvement in my pupils’ work and some of my pupils weren’t able to construct a sentence. But now, I can see how the scaffolds that I’ve been able to put in place with Debra’s support have worked.”

Faizah has now noticed significant improvement in how her pupils are learning. “It’s so rewarding seeing the quality of work that they can produce,” she says.

“It’s been great watching her grow as a teacher,” Debra adds. “You can see that natural progression; that self-esteem and self-belief grow.”

Debra says that the framework and the Early Career Teachers programme have supported this progression. “The programme is very prescriptive. It gives the early career teacher an area and then allows them the time to master that skill, before moving on to something else,” she says.

Faizah says that she is confident going back into the classroom this September: “I understand my strengths as a teacher, and if there's anything that I need to develop on, I know that I can do so.”

Tarek and Nicola

“When you sign the contract and start teaching, you think they want the finished product,” Tarek says, “But the programme and the mentoring reminds you that you will carry on growing.”

Much like his colleague Faizah, Tarek was nervous upon entering the classroom after his PGCE. Although it was challenging to work in a live teaching environment at the start of his first year, with his mentor Nicola’s encouragement, he soon began to develop his abilities. It was the support from the framework which reminded him that it was okay to be still growing as a teacher.

In the four years she’s worked as a mentor, Nicola has seen how essential this support is for new teachers. “Early career teachers all come to schools in different places, having different training experiences. It’s important that mentors are available to identify their developmental needs and really help them get used to the work environment,” she explains.

“There were initial feelings of, ‘Okay, I'm alone in the classroom now. There's no one sat in the back of the room in case anything goes wrong.’ And at the beginning there were some tricky classes,” Tarek says. “But I began introducing certain behaviour strategies and saw the benefit. Nicola’s instructional coaching experience and expert advice was really important in helping me to put those strategies into place.”

Instructional coaching has a strong evidence base as one of the best forms of continued professional development when measured against impact and pupil learning. As part of Ambition’s programme, mentors are taught how to use instructional coaching in their weekly coaching sessions with their early career teachers.

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Nicola remarks on how mentoring Tarek has inspired her own teaching practice too. “You can become a bit stale,” she says. “Tarek has reminded me to try new things. There have been loads of times where we’ll come across something on Steplab (the online platform used by Ambition for teacher professional development and instructional coaching) that I think Tarek has already learned. But he’ll say: ‘How about I try it this way and do something a little different?’ It’s been great to be reminded of the sort of mindset we should have, always wanting to try new things.”

Tarek has similarly been inspired by Nicola when preparing for his year 11’s final exams. “At the start of the year, I really wasn’t sure if I could carry the weight of that year 11 pressure. But for their final exams, I put everything into it because I'd seen the effort that Nicola had made to get her year 11 ready. She inspires me. I also want to be there for pupils when they need it.”

It is this drive to be the best he can be for his pupils which has helped Tarek over the finish line. “Tarek’s got a bit of a big head today because we've done his final observation this morning,” Nicola says. “We've been working together for two years. As a mentor, you see day to day all the small improvements, but then when I was doing that the final observation today, I couldn't come up with a target for the lesson.”

“It's that moment where you see everything they've learned over the framework come together and the impact that development has had on the pupils. I know that could go into any of those classes that he teaches, and I can ask pupils a question that's relevant to our core knowledge, relevant to our curriculum, and they'll answer it because of the hard work that he's put in.”

“As a mentor, you feel a little bit like a proud parent that guided them and helped them get there.”

“I do feel like a proud child at the same time. It’s like I've just got my results day back and it’s all good,” Tarek says.

“Time to put your certificate on the fridge,” Nicola adds.

What comes after the Early Career Framework?

Both Tarek and Faizah have started back in the classroom this September. They remain committed to their development and are excited to grow more in their roles.

Continuous professional development doesn’t end now they have completed their induction period, and both say they will continue to work with their colleagues to keep getting better.

Tarek adds, “I want to use the experience that I’ve gained on the framework to keep building on my practice.”

Our Early Career Teachers programme supports teachers at the beginning of their career to grow the confidence they need to thrive in the classroom. Learn more on our programme page.

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