Explainer: The Early Career Framework

This article was written for SecEd Magazine

In November’s special supplement for Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) , I contributed three articles in which I proffered my advice on surviving and thriving as a new teacher.

In the first of those articles, I tried to reassure new teachers that, whilst teaching is tough, it is tough because it matters; it is tough because teachers do something important – they improve the world around them one person at a time.

I argued that teachers should never forget, especially on their toughest days, the impact they have on young people’s lives. Teaching, I said, is a superpower and teachers are superheroes.

In the second article in that November supplement, I turned my attention to an NQT’s induction year. I said that the government describes the induction as “the bridge between initial teacher training (ITT) and a career in teaching” .

As such, an effective induction should combine “a personalised programme of development, support and professional dialogue with monitoring and an assessment of performance” against the Teachers’ Standards (DfE, 2011).

An NQT induction should, therefore, support new teachers in demonstrating that their performance against the Teachers’ Standards is satisfactory by the end of the year and it should equip them with the tools they need to be an effective and successful teacher thereafter.

In the third article in the November supplement, I explored Ofsted’s recently updated initial teacher education (ITE) inspection framework which came into effect in September 2020.

I explained that the framework introduces a new key judgment called “quality of education and training”, which replaces the two previous judgments of “quality of training across the partnership” and “outcomes for trainees”.

And I argued that the criteria Ofsted uses for this judgment is also handy for newly and recently qualified teachers and that it can be used as a sense-check of their on-going development, not least in preparation for their assessment against the aforementioned Teachers’ Standards.

In this article and the one that follows, I would like to build upon my earlier advice, which I would recommend you read in full if you haven’t already done so, by exploring the implications of the new Early Career Framework (ECF), as well as the introduction of a two-year induction period, examining what this might mean for newly qualified teachers.

A quick note on terminology before I begin: in line with the ECF, I will now refer to newly qualified teachers (formerly NQTs) as early career teachers (ECTs).

Let us start, then, with the ECF…

What is the Early Career Framework?

Before I set out what the Early Career Framework (ECF) is, let us be clear what it is not…

The ECF is not a set of assessment criteria against which ECTs will be judged. It is not to be used as a checklist and early career teachers should not be expected to provide evidence against all the criteria contained within it.

Rather, the ECF is a summary of the evidence on which the government’s new structured two-year package of professional development for ECTs in England is based. It is a one-stop-shop, so to speak, of educational research and good practice advice.

From September 2021, the early career teacher induction is doubling for all new teachers in England from one to two years (following a pilot in some schools in the North East, Greater Manchester, Bradford and Doncaster that began in September 2020).

It’s worth noting here that, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, over 4,600 NQTs outside of early roll-out areas who were due to end their one-year induction this summer have also been promised an additional 12-month package of support based on the ECF in their second year of teaching in 2021/22.

Back to the ECF, though, the framework forms part of the government’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy and aims to improve the training and development opportunities available to teachers.

The ECF’s intended role in improving teacher recruitment and retention is worth exploring…

We know that approximately 1 in 10 teachers leave the profession and an increasing proportion move to other sectors rather than retire, suggesting working conditions rather than age are driving people out of the classroom.

We know, too, that as well as workload concerns, three of the major causes of teachers quitting the classroom are a lack of clarity of expectations, insufficient and/or ineffective professional development and a lack of longer-term career development opportunities…

In terms of a clarity of expectations, research suggests the workplace condition most predictive of teacher turnover in the US is a perceived lack of administrative support, a construct that measures how teachers rate an school leader’s ability to encourage and acknowledge staff, communicate a clear vision, and generally run a school well. When teachers strongly disagree that their leadership is supportive, they are more than twice as likely to move schools or leave teaching than when they strongly agree that their leadership team is supportive.

The ECF includes provision for high quality mentoring for two years which should help tackle this issue. Mentors are also being funded and trained so that they can support their early career teachers more effectively. A key role for mentors, we might infer, is to provide a clarity of expectations and greater leadership support, inducting ECTs not just into the teaching profession, but also into the life of the school – its policies and procedures, systems and structures.

In terms of professional development, the pressure on early career teachers’ time can mean professional development is not prioritised, particularly in their second year in the classroom. However, continuing professional development should act as ongoing training throughout teachers’ careers in order to improve their practice, develop new skills and maintain subject knowledge.

The House of Commons Education Committee argues that, currently, the teaching profession in England lacks clear, structured provision for CPD and a number of barriers act to reduce the amount of CPD done by teachers.

As well as struggling to find time for CPD, the current nature of the accountability system – the Committee argues – means senior leaders can be reluctant to release staff from the classroom. As well as CPD being available, therefore, teachers must be given time to attend training.

Once again, the ECF should help to tackle these issues by providing early career teachers with high quality evidence-based support and over a much longer period. Perhaps more importantly, such professional development is being funded and the time needed to engage in it is being protected so that it is not left to a headteacher’s goodwill but rather is guaranteed for all. Indeed, from September 2021, ECTs will be entitled to two years of funded high-quality training, and they’ll also be entitled 5% protected time outside of the classroom on top of their 10% PPA. What’s more, they’ll get a mentor (who will also be entitled to funded training and paid cover in the second year) and access to training materials based on the ECF evidence base.

In terms of career progression, in a report entitled ‘Leading Together: Why supporting school leadership matters’ published in 2018 , Teach First argued that nurturing existing talent in schools could also help address the teacher retention issue.

The report claims that nine out of ten (88%) teachers say that if their school were to offer excellent career development opportunities this would have some impact on their likelihood of remaining at their school, with a third of teachers (34%) saying it would have a great impact. Importantly, this rises to 41% of those teachers considering leaving the profession within the next year.

Career progression opportunities, including leadership development, provides teachers with an additional incentive to stay in education, rather than seeking progression opportunities elsewhere. Providing teachers with a positive and supportive culture of learning and development could, therefore, support with morale and retention.

The ECF, by helping to form the habit of structured professional development over two years, should go some way to providing these longer-term development opportunities.

What is in the ECF?

The ECF sets out what all ECTs should learn about and learn how to do during the first two years of their careers.

It includes sections on:

• behaviour management
• pedagogy
• curriculum
• assessment
• professional behaviours

The ECF covers five fundamental areas of practice: pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, behaviour and professional behaviours.

Supported by the Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF), the framework authors reviewed the best available research in each of these areas.

Each of the five areas were then matched to the Teachers’ Standards.

The framework contains eight sections:

Standard 1: demonstrating high expectations
Standard 2: understanding how pupils learn
Standard 3: subject knowledge and curriculum design
Standard 4: classroom practice and pedagogy
Standard 5: adaptive teaching
Standard 6: assessment
Standard 7: managing behaviour, and
Standard 8: professional behaviours

Each of the eight sections is split into two areas: knowledge and application:

• The knowledge or “learn that…” statements: These outline findings from research. For example, the classroom practice section includes the knowledge statement, “Explicitly teaching pupils metacognitive strategies, including how to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning, supports independence and academic success.”

• The application or “learn how to…” statements: These explain how the knowledge would be put into practice. For example, for the “learn that” statement above, the “learn how to” statement is: “Narrating thought processes when modelling to build pupils’ metacognition (eg, asking questions aloud that pupils should consider when working independently and drawing pupils’ attention to links with prior knowledge)”.

By way of illustration, under the first standard – set high expectations – early career teachers will learn that…

  1. Teachers have the ability to affect and improve the wellbeing, motivation and behaviour of their pupils.
  2. Teachers are key role models, who can influence the attitudes, values and behaviours of their pupils.
  3. Teacher expectations can affect pupil outcomes; setting goals that challenge and stretch pupils is essential.
  4. Setting clear expectations can help communicate shared values that improve classroom and school culture.
  5. A culture of mutual trust and respect supports effective relationships.
  6. High-quality teaching has a long-term positive effect on pupils’ life chances, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

And they will learn how to…

Communicate a belief in the academic potential of all pupils, by:
• Using intentional and consistent language that promotes challenge and aspiration.
• Setting tasks that stretch pupils, but which are achievable, within a challenging curriculum.
• Creating a positive environment where making mistakes and learning from them and the need for effort and perseverance are part of the daily routine.
• Seeking opportunities to engage parents and carers in the education of their children (e.g. proactively highlighting successes).

Demonstrate consistently high behavioural expectations, by:
• Creating a culture of respect and trust in the classroom that supports all pupils to succeed (e.g. by modelling the types of courteous behaviour expected of pupils).
• Teaching and rigorously maintaining clear behavioural expectations (e.g. for contributions, volume level and concentration).
• Applying rules, sanctions and rewards in line with school policy, escalating behaviour incidents as appropriate.
• Acknowledging and praising pupil effort and emphasising progress being made.

You can read about all eight standards by downloading the ECF from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/978358/Early-Career_Framework_April_2021.pdf

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