Who said being a teacher was easy? The new Early Career Framework (ECF) is changing the teaching landscape, with mentoring and focused support for new teachers. Now the teaching profession is getting the attention it deserves.
The Early Career Framework (ECF) is a new two-year support package for new teachers. When you earn Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), you are now classed as an Early Career Teacher (ECT).
In the first two years of your teaching career, you will be required to continue professional development with the support of a mentor within the school that employs you.
If you have obtained Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and work in a maintained school or academy then you are required to work within the Early Career Framework for the first two years of your employment. If you work part-time, or go on maternity leave, you’ll work within the Early Career Framework for an extended time, until you have worked the equivalent of two years.
The Early Career Framework applies to primary and secondary teachers in maintained schools. It does not align with Independent schools, Early Years or Further Education.
The Early Career Framework replaces Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) status. That was a one-year programme, it had no core content but came with the added pressure in that teachers had to ‘pass’. The Early Career Framework was announced as part of the government’s Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy in 2019 and came into force from September 2021. Early career teachers will continue to be assessed against the Teachers’ Standards.
Over the two years, a teacher will have professional development linked to these five areas, delivered by a combination of mentoring, school based training and external courses:
It is possible for these five areas to overlap. For example, you may be learning about how to design a subject-specific curriculum, whilst also outlining how you’re going to assess it. Or you might be looking at one of these five areas individually. For example, behaviour management will give you the chance to learn about safeguarding, the prevent agenda and supporting transgender pupils.
Depending on where your school is located, you will face different challenges. For example, rural schools may face different issues and therefore require different training compared to schools in central London. Your Early Career Framework package is designed to blend core training whilst being flexible and able to respond to local challenges.
In England, as in other countries, there are concerns about the shortage of teachers in schools. These concerns are justified. Recent data shows that the overall number of teachers has not kept pace with increasing pupil numbers, with around 42,000 full-time equivalent qualified teachers leaving the state-funded sector in the 12 months to November 2018, an attrition of 9.8 per cent.
15% of teachers will leave the profession within the first two years of employment, with a third leaving within five years. Reasons given are a lack of support and training coupled with a sudden rise in responsibility and workload as they transition into their new careers.
New teachers may experience ‘reality shock’ due to unexpected personal and professional demands, and the unpredictability and complexity of their role. This may impact their confidence to do their role. With more training opportunities and better support, the Early Career Framework hopes to empower teachers to do the job they trained for and develop their careers further.
Cat Scutt MBE, Director of Education and Research at the Chartered College of Teaching, offers this perspective on the Early Career Framework:
"Early career teachers are only just beginning their journey in the teaching profession - the most rewarding profession there is. Research shows that teachers’ effectiveness increases rapidly in their first few years in the classroom (Kraft and Papay, 2014), and whilst new teachers will have learnt a huge amount during initial teacher education, there is not enough time in the relatively short period of an ITE programme to learn everything there is to know and develop all the skills necessary as a teacher.
"The Chartered College of Teaching, as the professional body for the teaching profession, has therefore been supportive from the start about the principle of the Early Career Framework, which sets out a programme of support and development for new teachers that covers the two years after they complete initial teacher training. I was privileged to be a member of the group of experts convened by the DfE to advise on its development.
"We believe that an entitlement to development for new teachers across two years, as well as strengthened expectations of mentoring, supports not just the development of Early Career Teachers themselves but also provides opportunities for development and progression of more experienced teachers who may act as mentors. High-quality training, delivered by national delivery providers or developed in-house, should again support both new teachers and their mentors, contributing to a culture of professional learning at a system level.
"However, it will only be successful if schools are able to really take advantage of the time, resources and funding available to support it; we recognise that its roll-out comes at a particularly challenging time. We have produced a number of resources ourselves to support the implementation of the Early Career Framework, including a handbook for Early Career Teachers and their mentors - The Early Career Framework Handbook - published through Sage; an annual online webinar series, the Early Career Festival; and the Early Career Hub, an area of our member website designed exclusively for early career teachers, with resources aligned to the Early Career Framework, including self-review activities, case studies, videos of classroom practice and subject-specific examples.
"We will be continuing to develop our offer in the coming months, and would love to hear from new teachers, schools and training providers of anything we can do to help!"
In their first year of teaching, early career teachers will have 10% remission to engage in professional development; this is on top of the 10% remission all teachers have for preparation, planning and marking time. In the second year of teaching, early career teachers get 5% remission to engage in professional development activities, as well as the 10% remission of all teachers.
This allows you to develop strategies to develop sustainable working practices as you progress through your career; gradually building up capacity and teaching time.
The mentors will be specifically selected by the school. Early Career Teachers will work with a named mentor and meet on a regular basis to discuss:
Mentors will already be a teacher working within the school. They will be experienced teachers who continue to teach classes, but also have time allocated to mentoring alongside their teaching timetable. There is funding allocated by the Department of Education for this role, though it is up to each school to decide how to use it.
Crucially, mentors will also receive support and training in mentoring. You may wish to see our article on effective mentoring for teachers.
Schools will be supported in delivering the Early Career Framework by regional teaching school hubs. These are a network of 87 centres of excellence for teacher training, development, and leadership.
The key functions are:
The teaching school hub program is part of the government’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy and seeks to improve the quality and effectiveness of teachers through all stages of their careers.
The Early Career Framework syllabus will primarily be delivered by six lead providers. Each provider offers a slightly different type of experience for the Early Career Teacher and will have been chosen for synergies with local contexts. The provider will connect to regional Teaching School Hubs, which in turn will liaise with local delivery partners such as multi-academy trusts and teaching school alliances.
There are also options for schools and multi-academy trusts to provide their Early Career Teachers with an Early Career Framework programme developed fully in house, or one that uses resources developed by other providers.
"The Early Career Framework is a really promising initiative. It puts new teachers in touch with one another, creating support networks so they don’t feel alone in the classroom. The challenge will be the scale it’s got to work at, with up to 3000 schools being supported by a single regional teaching hub. There will be lots to learn as they go along but I think we’ll see increasing confidence in how to access the framework, and online launch events happening are already helping.
"It encourages greater collaboration within the sector, enabling schools to access expert help to deliver key content for their early career teachers. It will also bring more opportunities to think, and collaborate, locally about what is needed. It’s a positive move for the teaching profession."
Professor Gill Golder, Director of Marjon Teacher Education Partnership at Plymouth Marjon University
The Early Career Framework is informed by earlier research, including RETAIN, an early career teacher retention programme developed and delivered for the Educational Endowment Foundation by Professor Tanya Ovenden Hope, Provost at Marjon University Cornwall. RETAIN sought to mitigate Early Career Teacher attrition in schools with high levels of persistently disadvantaged pupils.
RETAIN consisted of three evidence based modules. These were understanding and mitigating against the impact of socio-economic disadvantage on schools and pupils; pedagogy, skills and practice; and career pathways for teachers. All were fully resourced through an online platform and two full day workshops per module.
Mentors, known as school champions, were supported with two half day workshops. Early Career Teachers received regular one to one coaching in school so that they could apply what they had learned on the programme to their practice. They were also supported in applying current and robust educational research evidence to their practice.
RETAIN also embedded a requirement for extensive peer–school collaboration to establish a Professional Learning Community between the Early Career Teachers and within their schools. This was achieved through collaborative peer learning, peer observation, mentors, social media and a hub of online resources.
The outcome was that participating teachers saw an increase in their knowledge and understanding of strategies for teaching, and reported changes in their classroom practice. Their self-efficacy, confidence and research-use also increased. All Early Career Teachers on the RETAIN programme remained in teaching after four years, by which time the majority were in a leadership role.
"The RETAIN programme was highly effective. It developed the Early Career Teachers confidence in their ability to teach in the most challenging of situations. By extending their opportunities to engage with best practice evidence, attend workshops that modelled this practice and then try it out on their school with the support of both a mentor and coach, RETAIN provided a professional development and learning experience that worked. The ‘how’ of the RETAIN model is important as the ‘what’. I am delighted to see mentoring at the heart of the Early Career Framework, as effective mentoring is fundamental in developing and retaining teachers."
Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope, Provost at Marjon University Cornwall
It’s a great idea to have an open and honest conversation about the Early Career Framework with your new school. Ask about what their plans are to deliver the framework? Be aware of what you’re most confident about and the things you’ll be wanting more support with to help shape what happens next. You can use our teaching strengths template to help you get started.
If you are employing Early Career Teachers, be aware of the funding and support for them and for their mentors. There are three options for accessing resources and funding:
Next steps for school leaders choosing option one:
With the introduction of the Early Career Framework, teachers joining the profession will have a strong start that values them as skilled professionals. With a community of coaches and mentors, schools can start to open conversations that promote collaboration and welcome in the new generation of inspired teachers.