Review training and materials to solve ECF woes, study says

A new report calls for reforms to training for early careers teachers, including tailoring materials to their subject and phase

A new report calls for reforms to training for early careers teachers, including tailoring materials to their subject and phase

18 May 2023, 0:01

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ECTs feel training materials under the ECF are not specialised to their phase or subject, a study shows

Ministers should review the external training provided to early career teachers, deliver more subject or phase-specific coaching materials and ensure staff get time off timetable.

The reform recommendations come from a study published today which again exposes the extra workload heaped on new teachers by the flagship early career framework.

Around two-thirds of early career teachers (ECTs) felt the training added to their workload. Similar numbers also said the training did not cover anything they didn’t already know from their initial teacher training.

Four in five new teachers wanted to spend less time on it or opt out of aspects altogether, the study found.

One in 10 new teachers undertaking the training said they would drop out of the entire framework if they could, while more than two-fifths (44 per cent) would opt of external provision.

Jenni French, head of STEM in Schools at Gatsby Charitable Foundation which paid for the study, said: “Recruiting and retaining sufficient teachers continues to be a significant challenge.

“If we are to ensure that all pupils are taught by well-qualified, specialist teachers, then the challenges raised in this report should be addressed by government, in particular increasing the focus on subject-specific support.”

Schools Week has previously revealed similar issues, including a lack of mentors for new teachers – given current teacher shortages – as well as wider complaints the training increases workloads and staff are not being given the time off timetable to complete it.

ECTs get an extra ten per cent off timetable in their first year, and five per cent in their second year under the programme.

Increase focus on ECT timetables

The report suggests a “comprehensive review of the external training” provided to ECTs. Government officials should also consider an “increased focus on timetable allocations” and “address the challenge of developing specialised materials tailored to subjects and phases”.

Just 4 per cent of ECTs said the self-study materials they had been given had been specialised, while 9 per cent said their external training had been.

Around 20 per cent of both primary and secondary ECTs also said their mentor did not teach the same phase or subject as them.

Becky Allen, chief analyst at Teacher Tapp and co-author of the report, said there was a “clear consensus that ECTs require training that aligns closely with their subject and phase specialism.

“However, finding a cost-effective approach for training providers to deliver this, considering the wide range of subjects and year groups, poses a significant challenge.”

The report was based on three surveys since the reforms launched in 2021, finding “limited amount of change” across the years. It included responses from more than 400 ECTs, 600 ECT mentors and 2,000 senior school leaders.

The reforms are supposed to increase retention, but just 23 per cent of ECTs surveyed in February said the training made them more likely to remain in teaching.

Nearly a fifth (19 per cent) of secondary ECTs said they were more likely to leave the profession because of the programme, while (11 per cent) of primary ECTs said the same.

Provider questions study sample size

Marie Hamer, an executive director at Ambition Institute – one of the government-contracted lead providers for the ECF rollout – said “we must be cautious of how representative the claims in this report are”.

She said more than 100,000 new teachers and mentors have “engaged with the framework since it was first rolled out, but the self-selected responses to this survey had sample sizes as small as 69 teachers in some cases”.

This related to a question of ‘Is more phase specialisation needed in any of these areas’. It was the only question with fewer than 100 respondents, with another two have fewer than 200.

Hamer cited a recent review by Ofsted that found wider teacher workloads were “getting in the way” of the government’s training and development reforms.

She said “what’s important is that we keep listening to teachers and improving the training they receive… It’s what they and their pupils deserve.”

All the other providers either did not respond or refused to comment.

A Department for Education said: “We are listening to teachers and working with them to address issues such as workload, including through development of a workload reduction toolkit.”

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