What is it like to be a teacher on the Early Career Framework?

Share this page

Date published 19 September 2023

Being the only adult in a classroom for the first time is a big step.

Katie Newman, a teacher at Charles Darwin Primary in Norwich, knows this only two well. Two years ago, she entered the classroom as a new teacher and got her induction through Ambition Institute’s Early Career Teachers programme.

“Being a new teacher can be overwhelming,” she says. “I was worried about the workload of the programme on top of my new role, but it eases you in. It’s been really manageable and flexible. It’s explored new areas for me and in others gone into more depth than my PGCE.”

Katie is one of the many teachers who have completed the Early Career Teachers programme since the Ambition pilot in 2019. Underpinned by the government’s Early Career Framework (ECF), it provides a carefully sequenced and evidence-informed curriculum which guides teachers through the first two years of their career.

Katie has immersed herself in the programme, making the most of her time with her mentor, as well as the conferences and clinics on offer. She is driven to be the best possible teacher for her classes.

“I’m ambitious about my future. I want to get further in my career,” she explains. “I think, to be the best of yourself, you've got to keep going with regular continued professional development (CPD). Otherwise, I don't think you can give high quality teaching.”

But how has Katie embraced learning on the programme, and what does this look like?

How can teachers get the most from self-study on the programme?

On the programme, early career teachers take part in weekly self-study modules. Each module is around 45 minutes and includes written material, video content, quizzes and reflection tasks.

“The content was all very manageable and logical,” says Katie. “The way it was released meant I wasn’t overwhelmed.” Katie particularly found Ambition’s learning platform Steplab useful. Learning was released in manageable chunks which then became the focus of her meetings with her mentor.

“I'm also dyslexic, so it was very user friendly as well,” says Katie. “You have a video alongside the reading element of the module, and you can go back and reread it in your own time.”

In the second year of the programme, Katie also had the opportunity to revisit the weekly modules she studied in her first year. This repetition allowed her to deepen her knowledge and build mental models. Alongside this, she completed six ‘stretch’ modules which built on and deepened her knowledge in key areas.

For each module Katie engaged with on Steplab she was able to put her knowledge into practice immediately as a target set with the support of her mentor.

AllSaints_ElliDeanPhoto_Feb19_606 (3).jpg

How can early career teachers get the most out of their mentoring sessions?

“I was really lucky to have a fantastic mentor,” Katie says. “He is the assistant principal at my school. Without fail, he would give me the time and the dedication that I needed.”

As part of the programme, and as a requirement of the Early Career Framework, each early career teacher is given a mentor based at their school. This mentor supports them through the programme with a variety of techniques, including instructional coaching sessions.

“My mentor would come and observe me for 15 minutes each week and then a day or two later we'd have a meeting for around 45 minutes to an hour, where he’d feedback. It was so useful to have his expertise and he was great to bounce ideas off,” Katie says.

These coaching sessions are weekly in year one and fortnightly in year two. Each early career teacher is given bite-sized and manageable targets by their mentor for areas they want to work on in the classroom. “It gave me a weekly focus,” says Katie.

Katie also recommends that other early career teachers watch their mentors in action too. “I think it's so valuable to go and watch other people teach because I think you can always get better. At any given opportunity, I want to come watch, observe other people and see how they do things.”

How can early career teachers get the most from conferences and clinics?

During the two-year programme, early career teachers attend full-day, in-person conferences and a series of shorter online clinics. These events support teachers to delve deeper into the learning they receive with each module on the programme. They are also an opportunity to build relationships with other early career teachers on the programme and ask questions of experts in the field.

“The clinics were delivered by various professionals,” explains Katie. “For example, there was a special educational needs specialist, a primary school specialist and a secondary specialist. It was all really useful.”

The Ambition Early Career Teachers programme intentionally makes use of the expertise facilitators can bring to new teachers in the profession. This way, teachers in all contexts can understand how practices relate to their setting.

Katie also particularly valued the opportunity to meet with her cohort, in-person and online. “In the clinics, after the content was presented, there were breakout rooms where you were given a scenario and your group had to talk about strategies for it. You would then re-group, discuss and hear different opinions.”

The conferences, Katie says, were larger and “gave more detail on different modules of the programme, such as routines, behaviour and feedback.” Each conference was aligned to what Katie was currently learning on Steplab and with her mentor, as well as the period of the academic year they were in. “For instance,” Katie says, “in autumn, we talked about routines for coming back in September.”

For Katie the conferences were instrumental in guiding her learning over the two years. “Because they were structured around the fundamentals of teaching, they really helped me find my feet within the programme.”

170626ambi(class)_110_R_ActualSize_RGB (4)-min.png

What is next for early career teachers?

Throughout her two years, Katie has had the opportunity to refresh and deepen her learning from her PGCE training. She has valued this on her journey of growing as a teacher on the Early Career Framework.

Katie is the type of teacher that Ambition works with every day - those who are committed to life-long learning, and who know there’s always more opportunity to develop and keep getting better.

At Ambition Institute, we understand the transformative effect this development has on teachers and children. Research shows that high-quality continuous professional development has a significant positive impact on pupils’ learning outcomes. It is also associated with an increased desire in teachers to stay in the classroom (Zuccollo & Fletcher-Wood, 2020).

“I want to do my best by my pupils, and the way to do that is through developing my knowledge,” Katie says. “My ability to teach needs to be at the highest level it can possibly be. Even teachers who are well into their career, I think, still have things to learn.”

Understanding that she’ll always be a learner helps Katie put less pressure on herself. “It’s a big deal for me to be able to say to myself that I'm still learning. But actually, everyone's still learning, and that’s okay.”

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.

Ambition logo blue
Ambition Institute

Follow Ambition Institute

Search blog posts by topic: