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“We’re not born knowing all the answers”: how new and experienced teachers are growing together with the Early Career Framework

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Date published 27 October 2023

“No one is born a rounded teacher. I think you've got to have that spark and that passion to become a teacher, but I also think you need to want to develop and continue to develop,” says Dan Hipgrave.

Dan is a lead practitioner for modern foreign languages with 18 years’ experience as a teacher. Isabel Ramirez is an early career modern foreign languages teacher who has just entered her second year in the classroom. They both work at Bristnall Hall Academy, part of Academy Transformation Trust.

Despite being at different stages of their career, Dan and Isabel have both taken a huge amount of learning and energy from working together as mentor and mentee on Ambition’s Early Career Teachers programme over the past year. The programme is 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 Teachers programme is underpinned by the Early Career Framework: a carefully sequenced and evidence-informed curriculum which guides teachers through the first two years of their career.

Here are three ways the pair are benefitting from the Early Career Framework:

1.More time to build a solid foundation

For both Isabel and Dan, the biggest benefit of the Early Career Framework – on which the programme is based – is the two years of support it provides.

When Dan first began supporting new teachers they would receive a year of mentoring which involved one lesson observation every half term. Dan felt this wasn’t enough and he often saw colleagues missing out on support after completing their mentoring period.

“You still need that support after one year,” he says, “That’s what I like about the framework: learning is granular over the two years. This means that there’s more time to get the groundwork done properly and to have a good solid foundation to build on in year two.”

Teachers are taught the Early Career Teachers curriculum in strands – sequences of content which they work through with their mentor over a term. Each strand has a core focus – either behaviour, instruction, or subject – and is split into self-study modules.

The strands are built on throughout the two years, supporting a natural progression in the knowledge base of teachers. The modules similarly revisit and retrieve content from initial teacher training which helps consolidate learning in the long-term memory.

Isabel completed her PGCE during the pandemic, which meant that much of her learning was online. “I missed a lot of things,” she says, “So, the best thing about the framework is that, because it is two years, we have that support to continue developing.” She now feels confident to keep progressing as she moves into being a second-year early career teacher.

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2. A development opportunity for mentors

Looking back over the first year of the framework, Dan can see how he has developed as a mentor and teacher.

“It’s easy to get arrogant and think that, because you’ve been teaching for a long time, you know what you’re doing. But it’s important to get yourself reflecting on your practice,” Dan says. “The framework and the programme have supported me with that.”

Mentors benefit from live conferences and access to training materials on the online platform, Steplab. This supports mentors to develop knowledge and skills on key areas of mentoring, such as instructional coaching and the evidence base underpinning the Early Career Framework.

Dan has also found that working alongside Isabel on her modules has helped him to think more about his own practice as a teacher. He shares that there are often pieces of Isabel’s learning that he can incorporate in his classroom after their conversations. For example, Dan has now begun modelling vocabulary to his pupils following an observation of one of Isabel’s classes.

“I like the idea that we are learning together,” he adds.

With the support of Ambition materials and the facilitators at his school, Dan has been able to take the leap and grow as a mentor this year. “Moving into year two of the framework will be a much smoother process now I’m more confident,” he says.

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3. A family of support

Learning doesn’t just happen during a teacher’s initial training period. Both Dan and Isabel recognise that it extends beyond that. “As a new teacher, it is important to be patient with yourself because teaching is hard,” Isabel says, “I still have things to learn.”

The framework and the Early Career Teachers programme have helped create a culture of continuous development at Bristnall Hall. “It made us think about how the school can make sure that support is in place for all our teachers, not just those new to the classroom”, Dan says.

Dan believes that it is important the entire school gets involved when it comes to the development of their early career teachers. He shares that it is not only him who takes an active interest in Isabel’s growth. “Everyone cares. We are lucky to have something which feels like a supportive family network.”

Throughout his career, Dan has benefitted from the support of his colleagues. It is this which has given him the confidence in the positive impact he can have on Isabel and other teachers’ development beyond the framework.

“I think there's a bit of everybody in me,” he says. “There's a little bit of all the people that have looked after me in my career at Bristnall Hall. It really is your colleagues who help develop and make you that rounded individual, because we’re not born knowing all the answers.”

The Early Career Teachers programme is supporting teachers and mentors to keep getting better. Learn more on our programme page.

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