Two years of the Early Career Framework: what’s happening in practice?

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Date published 11 September 2023

Since the national rollout of the Early Career Framework in September 2021, Ambition has worked with over 15,000 early career teachers and their mentors.

The first teachers starting their career with this two-year evidence-based development have now completed their induction. I want to share some of our insight on what’s working – based on our surveys of those on the programme – and what it means for the future.

The Early Career Framework is an ambitious and important reform that aims to improve support provided to new teachers in the hope that this supports teacher retention. You can read more about this in What is the early career framework?.

How is early career teacher mentoring going?

Mentoring is a hot topic for the early career framework, so let’s start with that. The Early Career Framework seeks to bring consistent support from a mentor to new teachers and extends that support into the second year of teaching. We’ve seen that schools have been able to accommodate the mentoring requirements.

For example, 80% of early career teachers have the same mentor at the end of the programme as they did at the start. Where the mentor has changed this is often due to either the mentor or early career teacher changing school or parental leave. This suggests that the mentor and early career teacher relationship is usually very stable, which allows mentors to get to know their early career teachers well and tailor their experience accordingly.

Early career teachers also value having mentors with relevant subject or phase experience. Most schools have been able to match early career teachers and their mentors well. 96% of early career teachers said that their mentor had the same or a related subject specialism (or key stage experience in the case of primary). This makes a difference in practice. 94% of early career teachers reported that they ‘often’ or ‘always’ feel that their mentor ‘has the relevant subject/phase knowledge to support them to apply the curriculum’.

Schools are also finding ways to protect mentor capacity and new ways to use the mentor experience as a dedicated role. 80% of mentors work with only one early career teacher at a time; 16% of mentors have two early career teachers at a time; and 3% of mentors work with more than two early career teachers at a time. In some cases, a school or trust has a dedicated mentor role as a seconded post.

What about workload?

One of the leading concerns around the Early Career Framework reform was that it may increase workload, especially for mentors.

Many schools provide their early career teachers and mentors with dedicated protected time for self-study and mentoring. 74% of mentors have at least 30 minutes each week of timetabled protected time to support their early career teachers and 86% of mentors meet with their early career teachers at least weekly.

Most mentoring takes place during the school day. Early career teachers in secondary schools are more likely than those in primary schools to meet with their mentor during school day (85% compared to 60%).

Many schools have been able to reduce the teaching load of mentors to support them in their role. 51% of mentors have a reduced teaching load to accommodate their mentoring responsibilities.

By examining when early career teachers are active on Steplab – the online platform where early career teachers complete their study modules – we can see that around 65% of access to the self-study materials takes place between 8am and 4pm. There is also some activity in the early evenings, and on Sunday afternoons. As early career teachers progress through the programme, they spend less time on the platform in the evenings and at the weekend.

This suggests that many early career teachers can do the activities they need to during the typical school day and that the programme has not generated unmanageable workload pressures them.

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Is the Early Career Framework making a difference?

Well, many early career teachers think so.

90% of Year 1 early career teachers and 80% of Year 2 early career teachers told us that they are ‘more confident teachers because of the programme’.

What's more, 90% of school leaders agree that their early career teachers can apply what they’ve learned to their teaching.

Mentors feel similarly, with 94% agreeing that their early career teacher is ‘improving their practice due to the programme’.

Most mentors also value and enjoy the role, with 92% of agreeing the role is ‘professionally fulfilling’, and 81% saying they would recommend our mentor programme to a colleague.

This suggests that that Early Career Framework is starting to have a positive impact for early career teachers, their mentors and the schools that they work in. Our hope is that this translates into better experiences and outcomes for pupils.

What about retention?

87% of our Year 2 early career teachers said in June 2023 that they plan to stay in teaching: less than 3% told us they did not.

This is encouraging as the Early Career Framework was introduced in part to support the retention of new teachers through more consistent support.

What have independent Early Career Framework evaluations found?

Our insight into the first two years of the Early Career Framework paints a positive picture. This insight aligns with Ofsted’s assessment.

Earlier this year Ofsted published a report on teachers’ professional development. In this report they highlighted that the Early Career Framework “represent[s] a significant step forward because they are research-informed and designed to include both dedicated time for professional development and follow-up with mentors”.

The Ofsted report from our inspection in May 2023 highlighted that:

  • All parties involved in the programme share the same vision to train and develop educators who enable children from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve the very best.
  • Leaders are fully committed to ensuring that the programme prepares early career teachers extremely well for the reality of teaching and enables them to meet the needs of all pupils.
  • The programme is meticulously planned with carefully considered design choices at all stages.
  • Early career teachers have regular opportunities to revisit learning and deepen their understanding.
  • This is highly successful and enables early career teachers to successfully build and apply their knowledge over time.

We’re extremely grateful to all the early career teachers, mentors, school leaders and delivery partners who took part in the inspection. It is a reflection of their hard work and dedication that Ambition Institute was awarded an overall judgement of outstanding.

Next steps

With the insights we’ve gained on the Early Career Teacher programme, we’ll be making ongoing refinements so that we keep getting better. Some of the things we’ll be doing include:

  • Greater flexibility: increasing the use of diagnostic tools available to early career teachers to support them to tailor their experience.
  • Subject specificity: piloting new maths focused materials for mentors.
  • Continuous improvement: feeding our participants experiences into the Department for Education review of the Early Career Framework and Common Core Framework.
  • Joined-up training: preparing to launch our new teacher training programme.
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Final thoughts

Delivering the Early Career Framework is a massive undertaking for the sector. As such there are many things that we should celebrate from these first two years of implementation. Schools have faced many challenges in the past few years, and despite this context, teachers have found the time to engage in training and regular mentoring. Early career teachers, mentors and school leaders are telling us that this hard work is making a difference for new teachers. Early career teachers now have an additional year of support and professional learning compared to the newly qualified teacher arrangements – schools have worked incredibly hard to make this reform happen to give our new teachers a better induction to our system.

There is a range of rich feedback and data for us to learn from about how the first two years of the Early Career Framework have gone. We’ve already made several changes in response to feedback from our partners, and we’ll continue to listen carefully and be responsive as we enter the new school year.

Most importantly, we are excited by the impact the programme is having for early career teachers in the schools and trusts where our partners are delivering Early Career Teachers. The Early Career Framework is a huge opportunity to invest in teacher professional development and we’re proud to be collaborating with so many great schools and partners who are working so hard to make it a success.

Our data sources

To help us evaluate the experience and learning of our participants we draw on information from a range of sources, including:

  • The learning records of our early career teachers on Steplab.
  • Feedback survey responses from early career teachers, mentors, induction co-ordinators, delivery partners, trainers and school leaders.
  • Our internal quality assurance.
  • External quality assurance, research and polling.

Go further. Learn more about Early Career Teachers on our programme page here.

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Anne Heavey
Director of Insights

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