Nearly half of primary heads are considering taking on fewer early career teachers because of issues with flagship reforms, with new mentors working at weekends to complete training.
The policy was rolled out nationwide in September, giving new teachers extra training time across two years and a mentor in a bid to improve recruitment and retention.
But polling by Teacher Tapp has uncovered just 14 per cent of early career teachers and nine per cent of mentors think the training is a good use of time.
Most say it has added “a lot” to their workload, with one training provider admitting mentors are completing training in the evenings and on Sundays.
It also found nearly half of mentors were not given additional time to work with teachers, with one in five leaders saying they were not giving extra time for the role.
The mentor time-off timetable is funded by government and is a statutory duty.
More than one-third of school leaders now say they may take in fewer early career teachers in the future, which rises to 46 per cent among primary heads.
Reforms could ‘worsen recruitment and retention’
Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive at the Chartered College of Teaching, said the results were “alarming”.
Amid complaints of huge workload pressures and reforms being a “straitjacket”, Schools Week revealed ministers promised more flexibility. Changes included making registering teachers easier and simplifying the digital service.
But Peacock said government “needs to be prepared to go further in addressing these issues so that the framework does not falter and worsens a situation it seeks to improve”.
More than 25,000 teachers and 23,000 mentors are using the ECF, which was rolled out in September.
Schools minister Robin Walker said feedback had been “largely positive”. But the Teacher Tapp survey of 1,400 staff – covering new teachers, mentors and school leaders – challenges the claims.
Two-thirds of new teachers disagree that they have “learned a lot” from the ECF. Only 30 per cent say the support makes them a better teacher.
Despite being designed to improve retention, 21 per cent of teachers say reforms would make them less likely to stay in the profession – the same number of teachers who say that it would make them more likely to remain.
Fifty-seven per cent of ECTs say it has added “a lot” to their workload, with 65 per cent of mentors saying the same.
While two-thirds of mentors say it has increased new teachers’ knowledge, half say it repeats too much of ITT, is too prescriptive and does not meet individual teacher needs.
Two-thirds of ECTs disagree or strongly disagree that they have learned a lot from the framework.
Paddy Russell, headteacher at Ladybridge High School in Bolton, said while the materials provided to schools were “high quality”, there’s “just too much to get through… If there isn’t the time to engage, it just adds stress on to workload issues and defeats the purpose of trying to provide high-quality training.”
But there were some more positive findings. New teachers like their mentors – with just two per cent saying they’d opt out of this. Nearly a quarter of mentors said it made them better at mentoring, and 14 per cent stated it made them a better teacher.
Schools not giving mentors enough time
DfE funds schools to give ECTs five per cent off timetable and 20 hours of mentoring in their second year.
Another 36 hours of mentor time off timetable is funded by government if schools use one of its six training providers.
But 46 per cent of mentors said they had not been given additional time to work with ECTs. Twenty per cent of senior leaders admitted the same.
This is a statutory duty that should be checked by appropriate bodies, councils and teaching school hubs.
The Teaching Schools Council and the Local Government Association would not say if they had looked into the issues.
But one provider, Teach First, said financial pressures were hindering schools, who have to stump the cash upfront before being reimbursed at the end of year two.
Faye Craster, Teach First’s director of teacher development, writing in a blog added: “Even if they did have the capital to enable them to do this, it is hard to find time and space in a busy school timetable for this.”
Teach First analysis found 13 per cent of their mentors completed part of their training on a Sunday, while another 27 per cent completed it on weekday evenings.
The provider is working with schools to “understand and share best practice” for giving mentors sufficient time.
Early days of major reforms ‘always challenging’
Ambition Institute, another provider, said it has updated its learning platform 136 times after feedback. They will also invest in more subject specificity training from September.
Its own survey, of 1,900 participants, found 80 per cent of ECTs and 75 per cent of mentors were satisfied with the programme.
Tom Rees, Ambition’s executive director of programmes, said the first term of any “major implementation is always the most challenging. By listening first-hand from teachers where there are concerns, alongside schools and trusts who are implementing it successfully, we’ve been able to make adaptations and are continuing to listen to feedback.”
But the fall-out is already risking future recruitment. Seventeen per cent of primary school leaders will “definitely” take fewer trainees or ECTs in future, with another 29 per cent saying they “may” take those steps.
This was lower at secondary, with nine per cent definitely planning to take in fewer new teachers, and 19 per cent saying it is a possibility.
Just 12 per cent of mentors and school leaders thought the ECF should be scrapped entirely. Instead, 80 per cent of mentors believe schools should be given greater flexibility in how they meet ECT’s needs.
A DfE spokesperson said it is “conducting extensive evaluation” and “initial feedback from teachers has been broadly positive about the structured training and support it provides”.
EDITORIAL: ECF is too important not to get right
Today’s Teacher Tapp findings on the rollout of the early career framework are worrying. The issue of the training for new teachers worsening workload were already well known.
But the general discontent with training, the fact leaders are not giving mentors enough time to support teachers and the potential risk of schools deciding not to take on new teachers should be looked at by ministers.
The early career framework was one of the rare education policies that was broadly supported across most sections of the sector.
Everyone knows its potential. The survey shows some things are going well. New teachers really value mentors, for instance.
But the sheer volume of negative findings overshadows it.
Ministers have already shown they are listening to feedback to offer more flexibility on the reforms. They should now consider what more they can do.
Providers are also aware of the problems and are finding their own solutions, which is great.
The rollout of any major reforms will encounter problems. Let’s hope swift action will mean these are just teething issues of a programme that goes on to fulfil its huge potential.