Teach First Director of Teacher Development Faye Craster
Faye Craster
Director of Teacher Development at Teach First

What we’ve learned from the Early Career Framework

A year into our provision of the Early Career Framework (ECF), we've collected data insights into how early career teachers (ECTs) and mentors have engaged with the programme. Here's what we found.

One year ago, Teach First announced it became one of the lead providers chosen to support the National Roll-Out of the Early Career Framework. At the time, I wrote a blog post that shared key things schools leaders need to know about the programme.

Here I spoke about how implementation is key, stating: “Implementation of any new strategy is arguably more important than the strategy itself.

“Getting this right for all of our early career teachers is going to take a lot of great minds across the sector to pull together. It requires thought, planning and precision from school leaders, mentors and providers – and the rewards from the Early Career Framework really hinge on these factors.”

A year later, I’m sharing what we’ve found out about how that implementation for the ECF is going – and in short, it’s going reasonably well. There are pockets of brilliant engagement and feedback, mixed in with challenges; some I could have predicted, whilst others are more surprising.

Do early career teachers value the Early Career Framework?

Over the past year, we’ve come to understand how early career teachers (ECTs) on the ECF have engaged with the programme. Through surveys, interviews and data insights, we can understand details such as how many ECTs have accessed our seminars and courses, how they engaged with online learning, and more qualitative information such as their feelings and satisfaction with their experience. Here are our findings:

  • In January 2022, over 2,400 ECTs responded to our midpoint survey. We use the survey to understand what's going well, the impact we are having on ECT self-efficacy and also where we need to improve. 82% of those we surveyed are satisfied with their experience so far. We would like this to be 100% of course, but I think it’s generally a positive result, and stands in contrast to much of the mixed anecdotal feedback, social media or press narrative.
  • 94% of these ECTs rate their mentoring positively according to the same survey, which further reinforces our belief in the fundamental value that mentors add to early career teacher development. Mentors are doing a great job. They are supporting ECTs to apply the curriculum to the context of their school and personalising their experience.
  • From our engagement data, composed of both online (self-directed) and event attendance, 98% of ECTs are engaged in the programme. There are barriers to engagement of course; our midpoint survey revealed challenges for ECTs to attend live seminars due to clashes with school commitments. We know that live elements are important to build connections, share reflections, discuss concepts with experts and work with peers, but there isn’t a day or time every ECT can commit to. Schools are busy places: parents evenings, assessments, internal training and Ofsted are all competing priorities (not to mention the additional pressures schools have faced due to COVID-19). We know that schools with greater challenges are less likely to have the capacity to release teachers and leaders. Early career teachers who rated their school as highly supportive of Learning and Development and agreed that they had protected time to complete the programme are, perhaps unexpectedly, more likely to be engaged. The more engaged an ECT is, the more they report to be getting out of their work.
  • 80% of ECTs in our midpoint survey stated that they are actively using content from the Early Career Framework in their practice. We would like this to be 100% of course, but it’s an excellent starting point for improvement. One of our ECTs stated: “Module one [of the Early Career Framework] was incredibly beneficial in guiding my mentor discussions and providing me with a weekly focus. It removed the overwhelming feeling of trying to develop my teaching practice as a whole and instead pick one small and manageable focus. The sessions have given me lots of good ideas that I have begun to implement into my teaching and the videos of other teachers in the classroom were particularly helpful.”

This feedback so far suggests that the implementation of the programme has been beneficial to ECTs and given them the opportunity to develop their practice in a structured, manageable way but we still have improvements to make.

How are mentors finding the Early Career Framework?

Mentor capacity and workload is the biggest concern raised right across the sector in relation to ECF changes. According to our March 2022 mentor survey, 78% of our mentors have said they are currently satisfied with the programme (as with ECT satisfaction, we want this to be much higher). Most also agree that the ECF is making their own mentoring practice better, and that the programme is having a positive impact on ECTs.

Whilst most mentors value the training and support materials, less than half of our mentors agree that their workload is manageable. One of our mentors stated: “I agree that the content is useful and can extend the development of myself as a mentor and for my ECT. However, as a full-time deputy head teacher and teacher the extra workload I have found to be too much.”

Schools receive funding to release mentors for training and for the additional mentoring provided in the second year of the programme. But this funding comes at the end of the two years – meaning some schools need to dig into their reserves to pay for this upfront. Budget pressures are a reality for most schools, and they are required to release mentor time up front without this financial support. Even if they did have the capital to enable them to do this it is hard to find time and space in a busy school timetable for this.

The reality for most of our mentors is that they are engaging with their training and mentor preparation in their own time. According to Brightspace engagement data, 13% of our mentors completed part of their training on a Sunday, while another 27% completed it after 6pm during the week. We must find a way to support schools to make time for mentors to engage with training and support ECTs; we are working with school networks to understand and share best practice in this area.

Mentors who work across more than one programme (e.g. ITT (Initial Teacher Training) and ECF) have potentially double the training and support requirements. There is no shared framework for providers to hang their training from to ensure that mentoring knowledge and skills can transfer from one programme to another seamlessly. The implications of the ITT Market review will likely further exacerbate this issue.

Lastly, there is no recognition or qualification for mentors and we don’t do enough to celebrate them. Given the workload they face (exacerbated by lack of a shared framework), it would be fitting to establish something in this field.

So, what are we doing to improve?

There are things we should celebrate in the first year of the Early Career Framework, but we have a long way to go to get this perfect for all. We are committed to continuously improving the experience for schools, early career teachers and their mentors and have identified key improvement areas we are prioritising.

This is not an exhaustive list. We will learn more as we go and commit to doing everything we can across our partnerships to develop and improve the programme experience:

  1. We are increasing the flexibility of the programme by giving ECTs and mentors access to all of the content at the start of the year to enable them to better engage with what they need, when they need it. 

  1. We are refining our content so that it is more explicit about how concepts build from those first introduced during ITT. We know that the purposeful revisiting of knowledge and skills is integral to developing teacher expertise – but through making these links more transparent, we hope to support ECTs and mentors to have tailored interactions that relate to the individual areas for development. 

  1. We will ensure ECTs in SEND (Special Education Needs and Disabilities) schools have a programme that works for them through high-quality materials, SEND videos and exemplification and SEND specific teaching of seminars where possible. 

  1. Platform access and data accuracy are integral elements of the programme. We will make it easier for schools and individuals to navigate between the DfE (Department for Education), Appropriate Bodies, Lead Providers and Delivery Partners and have access to our platforms when they need them. 

  1. Through our manifesto we are fighting to shape government policy to weight funding towards schools serving disadvantaged communities, where it would make the greatest difference and enable schools to provide time for ECTs and Mentors to engage with the ECF. 

  1. We’re supporting the development of school networks to share practice in how they are implementing the ECF, particularly in exploring models of how to ensure mentors have time to engage in mentoring and training. 

  1. We will work with partners to create a shared approach to mentor training, increase recognition of mentors and better enable mentors to apply their existing knowledge and skills to the programme without having to engage with further training.

David Roper is the Director of the Leicester and Leicestershire Teaching School Hub and leads the ECF implementation across Leicester and Leicestershire. He states that, “We should be reminded that for those at the start of their careers in teaching, it takes time to learn and embed good practice. This is especially pertinent following that last two years of heavily disrupted training for initial teacher trainees. For us, the Teach First Early Career Induction Programme is effectively supporting our schools in this aim.” David, like many other school leaders across the sector, is working tirelessly to ensure that ECTs and Mentors receive a high-quality programme.

We’re proud to be part of something which values the expertise of teachers and their mentors and puts teaching practice at the heart of great schools. Rolling out something new will always have teething problems, we want to listen to schools, work with teachers and leaders to improve the experience of the Early Career Framework and make it even better.

If you are interested in working in partnership with us to support early career teachers and their mentors, or if you are a school looking for an ECF provider, please find out more and contact us here.

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