Early Career Framework: Which delivery model is best?

Written by: Sara Ford | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The Early Career Framework reforms come into action in September, but schools face some difficult decisions around delivery models and providers. Sara Ford advises

Induction: it has been part of our lexicon since the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 and has been a requirement for all NQTs since the Education (Induction Arrangements for School Teachers) (England) Regulations 1999 were introduced.

It is a policy that has had a special place in my heart as the induction appeal arrangements were one of the first policy programmes that I led as a civil servant at the then Department for Education and Employment. And things have been, pretty much, the same for NQTs ever since. Until now that is.

So, what is changing?

For starters, the terminology: “newly qualified teacher” is being dropped in favour of “early career teacher” (ECT) from September 2021. This is not a stylistic change, it is being used to better reflect the fact that the new arrangements will see the induction period extended to two years (extended pro-rata for part-time ECTs).

In addition, schools will be required, from September, to deliver an induction underpinned by the ECF – Early Career Framework (DfE, 2019).

The ECF sets out what ECTs are entitled to learn about and to learn how to do, and includes sections on:

  • Behaviour management.
  • Pedagogy.
  • Curriculum.
  • Assessment.
  • Professional behaviours.

Hobson’s Choice?

Schools will be able to choose from three delivery models for the ECF:

  • An approved provider-led programme.
  • Delivering their own training using Department for Education-accredited materials and resources.
  • Designing and delivering their own two-year induction programme for ECTs based on the ECF.

However, this may feel like “Hobson’s Choice” because of how the funding for the new arrangements will work.

In addition to the 10 per cent timetable reduction that NQTs currently receive in their first year of induction, from September ECTs will be entitled to a five per cent timetable reduction in their second year. As now, schools will need to fund the 10 per cent in the first year, but additional funding will be available for the five per cent off-timetable in the second year, whichever delivery model a school opts for.

Another change to the current arrangements is the statutory entitlement for ECTs to have a mentor who is not the induction tutor. It is here where the delivery option that schools choose will have a direct impact on the funding available.

Schools who chose the approved provider-led programme to deliver the ECF will receive additional funding (full details of how this will be accessed are pending). This will be to cover the “backfill costs” for mentors to undertake training and support the ECT. The mentors’ training will be funded and delivered by an external provider, who will also fund and deliver the ECT’s training.

Schools who opt for one of the other delivery models will need to fund the ECT and mentor training and backfill time from existing budgets.

Unclear provider capacity causing headaches

What may make this all the trickier for schools is that, at the time of writing, the level of approved provider capacity is unclear. There is a risk that schools who want to opt for the provider-led route, and thereby benefit from the full amount of funding on offer, will not be able to secure a place for their ECTs. They will then be hit with a double whammy of having to both fund and deliver the new arrangements themselves.

Funding aside, it is important that schools consider not only the best route for them, but also the most appropriate of the six DfE-approved providers. These six are:

Where a school opts for the approved provider route, they will need to identify which of the providers is offering a programme in their area. They can do this through their Teaching School Hub, or by contacting the providers directly.

In some areas there will be a choice, but that will not be the case universally; in some areas schools that want to go with an approved provider will only have a single option.

Partnership working

Once a school has identified which providers are operating in their area, where they have a choice it will be important that they understand the different offers so that they can ascertain whose delivery and support package best meets their needs.

As with any partnership, schools should choose a provider that shares their culture, ethos and values. A good place to start is for schools to contact their local Teaching School Hub to ascertain which provider they are working with.

As well as the need for schools to do this sooner rather than later because of potential capacity issues, there will be practical implications to take into consideration when identifying the “right” provider.

For example, how the provider plans to deliver the training for both the ECT and the mentor may affect how a school will need to organise their ECT’s teaching time reduction, as well as the mentor’s training time and time off timetable: schools should speak with providers about this.

Delivering your own ECF programme

Where a school opts to deliver its own programme, they will need to carefully consider workload as well as funding. Schools may find that the workload involved in delivering and/or designing their own induction programme, makes these options prohibitive (certainly for standalone schools and smaller MATs).

It is also the case that where a school does not go with an approved provider they will need to demonstrate to the so-called Appropriate Body (AB), that their programme meets the statutory requirements. This is because the designated ABs will have a role in checking that an ECF-based induction is in place for a school’s ECTs. Related to this, schools should note that following the end of the Teaching Schools programme (DfE, 2020), Teaching Schools can no longer operate as an AB, so schools will need to identify who their AB will be.

All change

So, lots of change, and limited choices. Is it all worth it? All the evidence shows that good learning outcomes for children and young people are underpinned by high-quality teaching. Helping ECTs to be good teachers and then retaining them in the profession is crucial. This is at the heart of the reforms.

The new arrangements will see ECTs supported by an induction tutor and fully trained mentor. They will be entitled to this support for the first two years of their teaching – a period when we currently see around 20 per cent of NQTs leave the profession.

ECTs will be supported by regular progress reviews, followed by two formal assessment points: the first midway through the ECT’s induction, and one at the end of their induction period.

The ECF is sound. It provides a good grounding for ECTs and should support them in meeting the DfE’s Teachers’ Standards (DfE, 2011), which is what will continue to be used to assess an ECT’s performance at the end of their induction period.

Done well, the new arrangements will result in more ECTs staying in the profession and support them in delivering a high-quality learning experience. And that can’t be a bad thing.

I think there will inevitably be teething problems, and capacity and funding remain a huge concern, but the new arrangements have good bones – and that’s not a bad place to start.

  • Sara Ford is the deputy director of policy with the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

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