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Early Career Framework: How can we make sure new teachers get the best possible support?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 6 November 2020

Mark Hardman.

New teachers need support and understanding as they find their feet in a new landscape. To provide this help, an Early Career Framework is being rolled out across parts of the country this autumn and nationally in 2021.

As it is introduced into schools, the framework has the potential to propel new teachers into a career in which they can grow and find job satisfaction for years to come. However, it needs to be introduced in such a way as to consider existing processes. Otherwise it risks making things worse in the short term.

Today marks the publication of our evaluation report on a pilot study looking at three different ways to support new teachers and their mentors. Here I want to discuss some of the potentials and pitfalls.

What is the Early Career Framework?

Stemming from the Department for Education’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy published in 2019, the hope is that the framework will make sure that teachers in England receive high quality support in the first two years of their career. The framework itself draws on up-to-date research evidence to set out what new teachers should learn. To support this learning, new teachers will continue to have timetables reduced by at least 10% in comparison to full time teachers in their first year, and additionally by 5% in their second year of teaching. The DFE suggests that time for mentoring will also be allocated and new statutory guidance published – although at this point, we don’t know the details.

During 2019-20 the IOE’s Centre for Teachers and Teaching Research evaluated three pilot programmes of support for new teachers and their mentors. Two were developed by Ambition Institute and a further one by the Chartered College of Teaching. The pilot was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation. Working across 98 schools (both primary and secondary) we used surveys, case studies, data from the pilot websites and observations to evaluate each programme, although COVID-19 meant that we focused upon the early set-up prior to schools closing in March 2020.

The potential of the Early Career Framework

The Early Career Framework has the potential to put the development of teachers and mentors at the heart of school life. Understandably, teachers prioritise their students before considering their own development and that of their colleagues. Although there isn’t a lot of research around the support and development of mentoring in schools, we know that support for both mentors and new teachers themselves is variable. The pilot programmes we evaluated began to change school cultures to recognise that the development of new teachers and their mentors ultimately leads to improved teaching, and likely supports job satisfaction and retention.

The Early Career Framework brings research-evidence into the classroom. Teachers valued the access to cutting edge research through concise and accessible resources and videos which were used to support development. The pilot programmes also deployed new modes of teacher development: instructional coaching showed promise in developing some aspects of practice through short (10 minute) observations and conversations around a specific focus .

Potential pitfalls around the Early Career Frameworks

Existing systems and processes need to be reconsidered as the Early Career Framework is introduced. In schools where there wasn’t already provision for new teachers, the framework supported a comprehensive, research-informed programme. In the majority of schools in the pilot, though, the programmes ran alongside day-to-day practical support and existing processes of mentoring. Whilst we hope this would be addressed over time, there is a risk of the framework increasing workload initially.

Linking the framework to local context and teachers’ needs is key. Successful mentors were able to relate the Early Career Framework to the local context and to the day-to-day needs of new teachers. This is not easy though! Mentors need time and support to get to the point where they can draw on the framework and research and have it to hand just when new teachers need it.

What’s next?

Our research centre will be publishing short, accessible guidance documents for policy-makers, school leaders and teachers over the coming months, to support thinking around the Early Career Framework.

Separate from the evaluation team, colleagues at the IOE have developed resources and a programme of support for the Early Career Framework. The IOE is one of four organisations providing free resources  and programmes to support the framework’s rollout.

Photo: IOE by Philip James via Creative Commons

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