Yesterday, the Department for Education launched the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy. I'd like to focus on what many are calling "the heart" of the proposals: the Early Career Framework (ECF).
I believe that the ECF is perhaps the most important education policy since The Importance of Teaching White paper in 2010. It offers an evidence-informed way of strengthening early career retention, development and ultimately the quality of the teachers in the education system in England.
Importantly, the ECF is not – and should not be used as – an assessment framework. The assessment framework for newly qualified teachers (NQTs) in their induction year remains the Teachers’ Standards. Rather, the ECF is the entitlement to a professional learning curriculum in those crucial early years.
Statutory induction is the bridge between initial teacher training and a career in teaching, although there is no legal requirement to complete an induction period if an NQT intends to work solely, for example, in the independent sector, an academy or an FE institution. But, in practice, almost all academies do require an assessment of the NQT against the standards.
Support for new teachers
It has always seemed a little odd to me that an assessment of NQTs is made with no verifiable curriculum framework in place. It is surely the case that curriculum comes first, followed by assessment and then finally qualifications.
The importance of the ECF is not just that it is the basis for curriculum design to support NQTs during the induction period, but that it is underpinned by such strong evidence. The ECF gives us a professional learning framework for early career teachers that recognises that teaching is (or should be) an evidence-informed profession. Teaching, like all the established professions, has a body of knowledge and it is this body of knowledge that is so persuasively present in the ECF.
The ECF is a marker not just of the importance of teaching but also the value that the profession (and wider society) places on teachers in their early careers. It is a strong statement that collectively we believe in the value and potential of teachers, and in the power of professional learning throughout a whole career but particularly in the early career years.
The ECF will help to create a system that relies on the professional knowledge, values and behaviours of our teachers to propel continuing improvement.
And it shifts the focus from central direction to the potential in schools and trusts, working collaboratively, to:
Provide high-quality support to new entrants and existing teachers;
Create school cultures of professional learning underpinned by evidence and strong subject knowledge;
Encourage innovation to discover future leading practices;
Create professional ownership of the outcomes and quality of education.
As they enter the profession, teachers typically see themselves as contributing to educational excellence, the creation of a fair society and the common good. This brings a strong sense of energy, collective purpose and professionalism.
Harnessing that energy, purpose and professionalism and exciting teachers about teaching has never been more important. And the ECF is a very important step in helping us to do just that.
Leora Cruddas is the chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) and National Teacher Accreditation (NTA), the only national independent "Appropriate Body" quality-assuring the induction process in all types of schools and trusts. She tweets @LeoraCruddas