Ministers are proposing a new crackdown to ensure schools face “rigorous checks” on their legal duty to give new teachers and their mentors time off timetable to train.
Schools Week revealed new figures in April showing nearly half of mentors said they were not given additional time to work with early career teachers (ECTs). One in five leaders confirmed they were not giving extra time for the role, despite getting funding to do so.
The Department for Education today launched a consultation which proposes to tighten up the checks on schools by reforming the appropriate body (AB) system.
ABs are responsible for overseeing ECTs and mentors receive their statutory entitlements, such as time to train and regulator mentoring.
Under the proposals, councils would no longer act as an AB from September next year. This fits with the DfE’s white paper vision for local authorities to step back from “directly maintaining schools” in favour of academy trusts, the consultation added.
Teaching school hubs, which currently share the AB responsibility with councils, will now take full control.
Reforms to increase consistency of support
The early career framework (ECF) reforms were rolled out nationally last year. The ECF extends the induction period for new teachers from one to two years, providing funded additional time off timetable for second-year teachers.
Teachers also get a mentor, with schools funded to allow them 36 hours off timetable over the two years.
The next academic year will be the first time schools nationally have two cohorts of new teachers serving statutory induction at the same time.
The consultation says it is “especially important that we make sure all ECTs receive their statutory entitlements and that mentors are given sufficient time to conduct their role effectively”.
It seeks to improve the consistency of support provided by developing policy which clarifies how ABs should operate.
“We are asking ABs to ensure that they provide rigorous checks on all schools to ensure that ECTs and their mentors are receiving their full entitlements and support,” the consultation adds.
It seeks feedback on challenges ABs face and what contributes to high-quality services which will allow the DfE to “develop policy … and clarify how ABs should operate”.
Tightening of rules for schools avoiding scrutiny
The government warns that a “lack of consistency in the quality” of AB services has “remained an unresolved issue”.
A “small minority of schools” switched their AB midway through a new teacher’s induction “to avoid challenge from their original AB”, the consultation said.
It warned this was not in the best interest of ECTs and said part of the reforms will “consider how to prevent this practice from happening in the future unless there are exceptional circumstances”.
The AB role will be taken forward by a network of 87 teaching school hubs.
Schools will be encouraged to use the teaching school hub which “makes the most sense for their circumstances” – which is expected to be their local one.
The government says larger trusts may choose the AB closest to the majority of their schools.
As the DfE already has a contract in place with each teaching school hub, it can hold them to account against key performance indicators.
In contrast, there are “no direct accountability mechanisms to ensure quality across LA AB services”.
The Independent Schools and Teacher Induction Panel will continue to act as AB for its members.
The government has previously suggested an accreditation system to ensure all ABs meet an agreed criteria.
However, the consultation states this would “create unnecessary layers of burden and bureaucracy which we expect would pass on additional costs to schools”.
Elsewhere, the consultation seeks views on the value on the formal assessment to establish if updated guidance could reduce perceived burdens. New teachers have an assessment at the end of each of their two years, with the second resulting in a pass or fail.
In the long term, the government said the feedback will ensure statutory requirements are “valued and fit for purpose”.
The consultation closes on July 21.