“Teaching is a profession. So I am thrilled that teachers will now get a professional’s training..."
Here's why Doncaster Research School's Helen Bellinger is pleased about the new Early Career Framework programme.
22 December 2021
What do I think about the introduction of a two-year induction programme? I’m thrilled that the bar on training and development has been raised. And in my view, it could not have come soon enough. Until now, early career teachers (ECTs) only had a one-year induction, not long enough for them to grasp the basics, really understand their role, feel that they were being successful. Most other graduate professions – think solicitors, doctors – have a much longer induction.
So, the move to a two-year programme, underpinned by the evidence-based Early Career Framework (ECF), is a really positive one. Prior to the introduction of the framework, there was no consistency – there were some ECTs who had a really good induction, training and development, while others didn't. Those inconsistencies definitely affected teacher retention, as did other issues around workload and behaviour management.
But the new ECF irons out those inconsistencies. It’s really practical, on-the-job training, tightly focused on ECTs’ day-to-day work. It’s not additional training on top of their day job, but there to complement their teaching and help them to develop.
The ECF is the content – the curriculum, if you like – but different providers, including the IOE, run their own full induction programme underpinned by the ECF. As of September 2021, the two-year induction programme is mandatory for ECTs. Schools have to demonstrate that they've either engaged with a programme like that run by the IOE, or that they've done their own induction underpinned by the ECF. Schools are free to choose.
At Doncaster Research School, we chose the IOE’s programme. We were particularly drawn to the fact that in year two the IOE adopts a practitioner-led inquiry approach. This approach invites ECTs to take an area of practice that they feel they need to improve or want to develop further and helps them trial different methods in the classroom. They are then encouraged to evaluate the success of those methods, looking at any changes that they want to make to their practice. It's embedding a style of professional development that will be useful at different stages throughout their careers. Not all of the providers have this approach within their programmes.
Another distinct feature of the IOE programme was setting up partnerships between academics – researchers at the IOE – and schools to write content for the programme underpinned by the ECF. Researchers provided content for the programme and schools and school leaders offered practical examples, as well as working to test out the content before roll-out. This relationship is really successful.
The role of the mentor is absolutely crucial in supporting ECTs through the programme, so all ECTs have a dedicated mentor, and that mentor also receives training, which includes access to an online learning community for mentors. The IOE programme also involves the provision of local facilitators to lead sessions with both ECTs and mentors.
As ECTs complete each module of the programme – which takes place roughly half-termly – they complete an evaluation exercise. The information drawn from this is evaluated by the IOE against key performance indicators set by the Department of Education. This includes monitoring engagement and retention as well as evaluating the percentage of ECTs that feel the programme is making a difference to their practice.
What the IOE do really well is take all that evaluation data and use it to look at the changes they can make to improve the programme. Anything that ECTs are feeding back – around the success of particular modules, workload, whether there’s enough of a balance of examples for primary and secondary settings – the IOE carefully consider, honing the programme accordingly. It’s going to make a really positive difference to the quality of ECT training and development, and hopefully to teacher retention.
Helen Bellinger is Research School Strategic Lead at Doncaster Research School.