A leading government teacher training adviser has described setbacks with the flagship early career framework (ECF) as “teething problems” that can be fixed with “tweaks” by ministers.
Introduced nationally this year, the ECF gives all new teachers two years of training and development, with schools funded to provide additional time off-diary in the second year and for mentoring.
However, the policy has come under fire. Schools Week revealed last week that nearly half of primary heads were considering taking on fewer early career teachers, with new mentors working weekends to complete training.
And last month, schools minister Robin Walker promised to give mentors more flexibility on how to support new teachers after complaints the reforms had become a “straitjacket”.
Ian Bauckham, a multi-academy trust boss who chaired the recent review of the initial teacher training market, said there would “of course be teething problems” with new and “ambitious” reforms.
The government would need to “evaluate and review and adjust”, he said, speaking at a Westminster Education Forum webinar.
ECF criticism ‘being heard’
But criticism of the policy was “being heard”, and those in power were “looking at how they can streamline and make sure that what we are asking mentors and early career teachers to do is reasonable and manageable given other workloads”.
In December, nine in 10 respondents to a survey by the NAHT school leaders’ union reported that the new ECF had created extra workload for new teachers, with concerns mentors were also “drowning” in work.
Pressed about more recent Teacher Tapp polling, revealed by Schools Week last week, Bauckham said there “may be some tweaks that need to happen”, and said the Department for Education was in “conversation with providers to look at how this can be effectively done”.
However, he also said it was “inevitable” that asking professionals to take on a brand new approach “may seem more burdensome in the first year”, likening it to teaching a new GCSE or A-level course for the first time.
“I think it’s a combination of practice, habituating, helping mentors to really get under the skin of what it is they’re being asked to do and also genuinely looking at whether we can make some tweaks in order to streamline the process and make it feel a bit more manageable for people being expected to deliver it.”
Need for sufficient ITT places ‘uppermost’ in DfE’s mind
The government’s review of ITT, which Bauckham chaired, has also been criticised. A requirement for all providers to reaccredit has prompted some universities to consider their futures as ITT providers, while some other small providers have merged.
This in turn has prompted warnings that not enough places will be provided under the reformed system.
Bauckham said today that the need to ensure enough places was “uppermost in the minds” of those leading the accreditation process at the DfE.
“We fully understand…that an ITT provider market which emerges or may emerge looking different as a result of these reforms still needs to have sufficient training places available to meet the needs of the workforce and that those places need to be in the right areas, the right subjects, the right phases.
“So as we move to the two-phase process of accreditation, I know that that’s one of the things that’s uppermost in the minds of those leading that process, and it will be imperative that those considerations inform the next stages of the reform process.”
He also dismissed criticism of the timing of the review, coming as schools are still affected by widespread disruption from Covid, and with education recovery a top priority. The government has already been forced to delay its reforms by a year.
Bauckham said there was “no doubt that the pandemic has placed very significant strains on schools, teachers and ITT providers” but insisted the “obvious imperative of making sure that in the catch-up process we draw from best evidence means that it was right to push ahead with these reforms nonetheless”.