DfE warned against treating ECF evidence ‘like a Bible’

A teacher training expert and former DfE adviser warned against the apparent reverence of some in government to the ECF evidence base

A teacher training expert and former DfE adviser warned against the apparent reverence of some in government to the ECF evidence base

11 Jul 2022, 5:00

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The government has been warned against treating the evidence base for early career framework (ECF) reforms like “some kind of Bible”.

Professor Sam Twiselton, the director of the Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University and a government adviser on initial teacher training, said she was worried about such reverence, including amongst staff at the Department for Education.

She told a Festival of Education event on Thursday the framework (ECF) evidence base “really isn’t” a Bible, and was instead “incomplete” and “contestable”.

Sam Twiselton

“It’s not a definitive evidence base at all, and of course evidence continually changes. And actually evidence in whatever its most up-to-date form is, never really tells you explicitly how to do it and this is the result you’ll get.”

The ECF was unveiled in 2019 as a two-year induction in schools after new teachers finished their initial training. It was rolled out nationally at the start of this academic year, part of broader training reforms.

But Twiselton also made clear there had been a “really robust process” to refine the original framework, which included “weeding an awful lot of things out”.

Tom Rees, the executive director of the Ambition Institute, which provides ECF training, said one long-term question was: “How does that [evidence base] get renewed? What’s the process for the evidence base, the knowledge, to be developed, contested, changed, adapted over time?”

Tom Rees

Twiselton said the Department for Education did appear to be “in listening mode” over feedback on the ECF, however – “if there is a DfE still,” she joked after ministers’ departures this week.

A recent survey showed nine in ten school leaders said the ECF had created extra workload for new teachers, with wider concerns over the programme’s content.

But Twiselton said the feedback from participants and mentors was “much, much more positive than the noise”.

There had been a “very thorough” and positive evaluation that contradicted the “sense it was all falling apart right from the beginning” But it did show time was a challenge for participants, particularly for mentors.

The report of Ofsted’s monitoring visit of Ambition as a lead provider of ECF and national professional qualification programmes was published today, the first of all providers.

The report found its curriculum “maintains fidelity” to the ECF, offering high-quality example materials and comprehensive mentor training while being llexible “where appropriate”.

But Ofsted said Ambition should support facilitators and trainers to “use their expertise to contextualise” what participants are learning.

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