The Early Career Framework: 6 steps to success

The planned changes to the way that schools support newly qualified teachers will call for a ‘major cultural shift’, finds Helen Amass, who talks to experts about how to prepare for the incoming statutory requirements
11th June 2021, 12:05am
Nqt Support: How Schools Can Get The Most Out Of The Early Career Framework System To Support New Teachers


The Early Career Framework: 6 steps to success

‘It’s a huge shift in the statutory induction requirements for new teachers,” says Caroline Daly. “So now is a time for schools to make some important decisions”.

Daly, a professor of teacher education at UCL Institute of Education (IOE), is referring to the new Early Career Framework (ECF), which comes into force in September and is set to transform how new teachers are supported.

Mark Hardman, an associate professor at the IOE, agrees that it’s a “major cultural shift” away from the current system, in which there isn’t a framework to specify what “all teachers should have access to, and what they should know and know how to do”.

The aims of the new approach, Hardman continues, include boosting teacher quality “through having a research-informed profession”, while also improving recruitment and retention.

Few school leaders would argue against these being worthy goals. But the prospect of implementing a new framework next term, after perhaps the busiest year in education ever, may spark rather less positive responses.

“If you’re going to bring in something major and new like this, then you need to spend, in an ideal world, a couple of years preparing for it in your school,” says Becky Taylor, senior research fellow at the IOE, who, along with Daly and Hardman, conducted research into the ECF pilot programmes. The team have also produced guides for schools based on their research (see

But, Taylor continues, even in normal years, some schools don’t know that they’re going to have an early career teacher (ECT) until shortly before they arrive, so preparing to implement the framework in an ideal way may not have been possible anyway.

And while Covid-19 certainly hasn’t made implementation any easier, Hardman suggests that the challenges of the pandemic mean that support for early career teachers is needed now more than ever. The ECF rollout aims to address this.

“I think there was some consideration given to whether or not this should be delayed,” he says. “But, ultimately, this provides support to new teachers who [because of lockdowns] might have otherwise had less school experience. So it’s being rolled out perhaps quicker than it could be, but with some justification around supporting those teachers.”

What, then, can school leaders do to prepare to implement the ECF next term and make its first year as effective as possible?

1. Consider the provider route

Schools have three options for delivering ECF-based induction. They could choose to follow a funded provider-led programme offered by one of six providers accredited by the Department for Education. Alternatively, they could deliver their own training using DfE-accredited materials and resources, or design and deliver their own ECF-based induction. While it might be tempting to go it alone, Hardman recommends that leaders seriously consider the benefits of following an accredited programme.

“We personally feel that there’s a coherence to the developed programmes that is difficult to achieve [alone],” he says. “If a school was trying to do it for itself, it would be a very, very big job.”

2. Create an implementation team

Once a school has decided which route it will take to deliver its provision, the next step is to assemble a team of people to implement it.

“In smaller schools, that might just be one or two people,” Taylor says. “But in a larger school, you might need a group that includes the person who’s responsible for the timetable, the person who’s responsible for professional development, a person who’s responsible for ECTs [if there is one], one or more mentors, and also people who can make school-level decisions that affect how things are operating.”

3. Timetable carefully

Depending on the provider you have chosen, exact requirements will vary, but there are some areas that all schools will need to address, including making time for mentors and ECTs to work through their programme, says Taylor. Leaders will need to make sure that mentors can attend the necessary training and induction, that ECTs can attend training and events, and that there is time for mentors and ECTs “not just to meet and have their observations, but also to do preparation for those”.

4. Check existing provision

Look out for overlap between the new ECF requirements and the school’s existing NQT or coaching provision, suggests Hardman.

“There’s potential, if it’s not carefully introduced, that this runs on top of existing school procedures,” he says. “That’s where we found it to be more problematic [in the pilots].”

This might mean ensuring that mentors aren’t duplicating efforts by having additional mentoring conversations on top of ECF-based sessions.

“Where there was replication of processes, that did create an additional workload, initially for the NQTs, but more pronounced for the mentors,” says Hardman.

5. Check your tech

Having the right IT provision is a basic but fundamental element, says Taylor, as “all of the programmes depend on being able to access online materials”.

Schools need to make sure that ECTs and mentors have devices with the correct functionality (including cameras and microphones), and that platforms can be accessed through the school firewall.

6. Prioritise mentor development

If there were a golden rule for making the most of the ECF, then prioritising support and development for mentors would probably be it. “Heads should look really carefully at the kind of mentor professional development that’s offered by the programme they choose,” says Daly. “It’s difficult for mentors to see the medium-term benefit of their own development because they’re focused firstly on the young people and the students they are working with, and then they are focused on supporting the ECT. And so to get them to also focus on themselves, because that’s got kind of a one- or two-year payoff, is quite a difficult thing.”

Hardman adds: “We found the buy-in from school leadership and [their] expectation that mentors would have time to develop themselves … was really important in the way that mentors took up the programmes.

“This is a real opportunity for school leaders to reconsider staff development. But if they see it as something that just needs implementing without forethought … then I think this could be an opportunity that’s not made the most of in school.”

Helen Amass is interim commissioning editor at Tes

This article originally appeared in the 11 June 2021 issue under the headline “Six steps to make the Early Career Framework work”

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