Ready for the Early Career Framework? Five things to do now

Written by: Leora Cruddas | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Given the challenges of the last year, some schools have not quite got to grips with the impending Early Career Framework reforms. Leora Cruddas offers five things you can do now to support early career teachers from September


Undeniably, these past 14 months have been exceptionally challenging times for schools everywhere. The efforts they have made to maintain education provision, to feed, care for and protect the welfare of pupils, has been nothing short of heroic.

It therefore seems almost unfair to ask leaders to plan to implement something as landmark as the Early Career Framework (ECF) reforms from September 2021 (DfE, 2021a, 2019).

The ECF is designed to increase support for early career teachers (ECTs), who, until this coming September, have been known as NQTs. That is precisely why these reforms are even more important and relevant now than when they were first proposed.

New teachers have not always had the support they need to thrive, nor adequate time to devote to their professional development. Those entering the profession as we emerge from the pandemic are in even greater need of nurturing and attention than ever before, particularly as the challenges of remote learning have highlighted the vital impact of strong teaching on pupils, especially the most disadvantaged.

The important thing is not to be alarmed– if you have not yet had the opportunity to plan an approach for implementation, know that you are absolutely not alone.

I know from speaking to many leaders that they have understandably just not had the time nor the headspace to strategically focus on the planning and preparation which the ECF deserves.

So, here are five things you can do now to help ECTs flourish from September, despite the challenges of the past year.


1, Read the statutory guidance

Aside from the name shift from NQT to ECT, a big change is the increase in the standard length of induction from one to two academic years. Familiarise yourself with the guidance – Induction for early career teachers (DfE, 2021b) – so you can confidently plan your implementation strategy.


2, Review your school or trust’s policy framework

Schools must deliver an induction period underpinned by the ECF. Taking the time now to ensure all your policies are aligned means that even the little things can be prepared for in advance so they do not unnecessarily complicate things down the line.

The term NQT has been a staple part of school parlance since the removal of the requirement for teachers to serve a probationary period under the 1992 Education Regulations (until that point, they were known as probationary teachers). For existing staff, the term NQT rolls off the tongue and everyone knows what that means and how those new teachers are supported. The new teachers entering schools this September, however, already use ECF terminology.

Additionally, some of what ECTs have been taught may be at odds with the policies within the schools they go to work in – for example ECTs may come in having learned about “adaptive teaching” whereas the school will be talking about “differentiation”.

These examples highlight potential trip hazards and an urgent need for schools both to ensure all staff share the same language and to review their policy framework with ECF in mind. Think through how strand X in ECF will impact on strands A, B and C in a given policy.


3, Decide how you will meet the new two-year statutory induction

From a practical standpoint, the role of the mentor has been introduced. This excellent development presents a meaningful opportunity for both building the confidence of our newest teachers and carving out time to check in on their wellbeing.

You will also need to think ahead to how your timetabling may need to adapt over the next two years. ECTs will receive a 10 per cent timetable reduction in year one, and a five per cent timetable reduction year two.

From a strategic standpoint, it is important to note that lead times for framework implementation readiness will vary based on which ECF option schools or trusts take. There are three (DfE, 2021a):

  • Full induction programme: A funded provider-led programme offering high-quality training for early career teachers and their mentors alongside the professional development materials.
  • Core induction programme: Schools can draw on the content of the high-quality core induction programmes to deliver their own early career teacher and mentor training.
  • School-based programme: Schools design and deliver their own ECF-based induction programme.

Regardless of which option, there is still a need for a well thought-through and strategic policy review.


4, Consider your choice of ‘Appropriate Body’

Appropriate bodies will have a role in checking to ensure that an ECF-based induction is in place.

From September 2021, as well as ensuring that ECTs receive their statutory entitlements, they will ensure that regard is had to the statutory guidance and that ECTs are fairly and consistently assessed. Appropriate bodies will also be expected to check that ECTs are receiving a programme of support and training based on the ECF (DfE, 2021c).

There will be two formal assessment points, at the midpoint and then the end of the induction period. In addition, there will be regular termly progress reviews to monitor progress (except for the terms in which a formal assessment is already scheduled).

To ensure that you and your ECTs are maximising the potential that induction and the ECF presents, you will want to ensure the appropriate body you choose is able to give the challenge and support needed to move your ECTs, and therefore your school or trust, forward.


5, Mobilise the best research and evidence across your school or trust

The ECF is underpinned by the latest evidence drawn from research. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) independently reviewed the framework to ensure it draws upon the best available evidence and that this evidence has been interpreted with fidelity.

All this evidence is helpfully listed in the reference section of the ECF (DfE, 2019), with further reading recommendations indicated by an asterisk. It is therefore relatively easy to pull out key pieces of research to review within your own school or trust in order to mobilise research for teachers and leaders.

There is a lot of talk about how we enable our pupils to “catch-up” in the context of significant disruption to their education. We know that the effects of high-quality teaching are especially significant for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Sutton Trust reports (2011) that “over a school year, these pupils gain 1.5 years’ worth of learning with very effective teachers, compared with 0.5 years with poorly performing teachers. In other words, for poor pupils the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher is a whole year’s learning.”

Building the expertise of teachers in schools and trusts is perhaps the most powerful thing that leaders can do to support the recovery. By taking the opportunity to really focus on successfully supporting ECTs strategically, our most disadvantaged young people will benefit exponentially.

  • Leora Cruddas is the chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts and National Teacher Accreditation. The NTA acts as an appropriate body in respect of NQT induction. Visit https://nta.org.uk/


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