What mentors will gain from the Early Career Framework
I could extol the virtues of Teach First’s Early Careers Framework for hours on end. It benefits not just Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs), but also the mentors who support them.
Being involved with the development of the materials, from the very first day of discussion, on a hot summer’s day in the Cotton Rooms in Leeds. There was a feeling of excitement- these materials were going to do just what we felt they should do.
We were planning to ensure longevity in learning for our newly qualified teachers, planning to make sure that learning was bitesize, accessible and relevant, and planning to make sure that practitioners were involved in building these materials. Those of us involved in developing the Early Career Framework have championed quality training for the crucial role of the mentor within this process. Teach First have listened and responded with the integrity that they always do.
Being a mentor isn’t one-size-fits-all. Your style and approach must adjust to your trainee’s needs, and the same can be said for coaching and mentoring Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT). Each NQT will be entering the profession with a different set of skills and a different set of expectations, dependent on their training environment. Working alongside Teach First over the past 6 years has allowed me to develop my mentoring skills and make sure all my trainees are mentored successfully.
Teach First have built into their ECF programme a series of support mechanisms to ensure that the School or Trust Mentors assigned to support NQTs have their own journey of professional development.
Experience as a school leader has shown me that being a great teacher doesn’t equate to being a great mentor. The skills are very different and the relationships you have are based on different terms. The Teach First ECF has already started to ensure that schools are choosing the right people for the roles by placing the mentor high on their agenda.
In a panel event hosted by Teach First, chaired by Russell Hobby, the panellists focussed on how to support Early Careers teachers to identify, from the beginning, the next steps of their development. It was clear in this discussion that the mentor would have a key role to play in supporting the new teachers to reflect on opportunities they have had, planning for opportunities they need and revisiting instruction
The Teach First ECF deliberately recognises that in a hectic school environment, time must be planned for the mentor to fully understand and have a thorough understanding of the materials they have at their fingertips to support the training for each NQT. How often do we get a chance for free professional development and be trained to do the job we have been tasked with? There will be regular training for the mentor separately and alongside their NQT, on content familiarisation, skills associated with observation, providing high quality feedback developmentally and coaching for improvement and reflection. In addition, every NQT and Mentor will be given a membership to the Chartered College- for free! Research and up to date information and lots of resources at your fingertips- what's not to like?
Just as a whole cohort of NQTs begin their journey, so too do a whole team of mentors. Some will be experienced and understand what will make them successful; some have been asked to do the job at the last minute and will experience self-doubt and worry. The parity across the group is that none of us will have used the ECF before. This is a brand-new initiative and through it we will all learn together. Being a part of this national cohort will be a novel experience, and additionally Teach First’s ECF programme has the added advantage of having such active regionally led development hubs/ leads.
Probably the most important thing to remember as a mentor for NQTs is that you are not alone. The programme facilitates mentors sharing ideas, resources and expertise, setting up regional networks for themselves and their NQTs beyond that of their Appropriate Body. Being able to converse with a local school mentor and seek advice and reassurance will be a huge asset to both experienced and first-time mentors. In my opinion, this could be the start of a real coming together of like-minded people working hard to ensure the next generation of teachers are amazing practitioners who impact positively on our pupils. I have no doubt that these dialogues can contribute to a positive whole-school culture of sharing, supporting, discussion and collaboration.
The way Teach First’s ECF programme is structured supports the mentor to construct a progressive journey of development for the early career teacher.
- It begins by focusing on ‘behaviour management and routines’, THE most critical element of setting up your classroom.
- It is entirely research-based, uses ‘real’ practitioners experiences and solutions, focuses on different key stages and different approaches
- It is varied in approach and enables the early career teachers and mentors reflection time together to celebrate progress and identify the ‘what next for impact’ questions, together.
- It is organised in such a way that it should meet the needs of any new to career entrant, whatever their previous experience.
- It is flexible in pace and progression throughout. As a mentor, to not have to think about what to look at next as you arrive at your mentor meeting, having run from playground duty, teaching a class of 30 pupils or an SLT meeting can only be a luxury.
Regardless of their training pathway, each NQT must recognise that their journey is only just beginning. As a new teacher, every decision they make could directly impact the life of a pupil. This responsibility is a huge ask, and nobody can shoulder that alone. As mentors oversee the growth of their NQTs, they likewise deserve a training framework of their own.
Being a mentor with the Teach First ECF will not only bring about professional growth for your new teachers but also for you. Make the most of it.