Within the world of teacher training and education, there is nothing more important than supporting teachers through the early stage of their career. With approximately one quarter of newly qualified teachers leaving the profession after three years, there is a need for schools and universities to work collaboratively to ensure that high quality teachers are retained.

To tackle this, the Department for Education has introduced the Early Career Framework (ECF), designed to provide quality professional development to new teachers during induction. National roll-out of the ECF begins this September.

Manchester Metropolitan University was selected to deliver the early roll-out of the ECF in the north of England, in partnership with University College London’s Institute of Education, Newcastle University and a network of research schools. This began last year.

Together, we have written the materials and curriculum for delivering an ECF programme and have piloted this with schools. In Greater Manchester, around 180 new teachers and 160 mentors have come through the programme, with over 1000 teachers supported by the wider consortium.

The evidence indicates that, so far, the impact of our programme has been positive. 90% of those recruited have remained on the programme, with the majority of ’leavers’ simply changing schools mid-programme. So, what exactly does good support look like for new teachers?

There is a mistaken perception from those outside the sector that new teachers mainly need help with managing children’s behaviour. Schools are very good at dealing with that and wouldn’t expect new teachers to manage that independently. Instead, what professional development needs to focus on is adaptive expertise.

We need newly qualified teachers who respond well to diverse learner needs and the many demands that will be made on them as they take on a wider professional role. New teachers need materials to help them develop approaches for that. The importance of adaptability has been brought into stark focus by the challenges of the pandemic.

We’ve taken academic research that informs the latest teaching methods to shape the learning materials within our ECF programme. We’ve combined it with insight from our school partners to make sure the programme is highly relevant. How, for example, do you teach a class with diverse learning needs online? What do you do if children with a range of additional support needs join your class? What strategies can be used to promote pupil and teacher wellbeing? These are among the challenges we need new teachers to have the capacity to cope with.

The mentoring aspect of the ECF is critical and is something the early career teachers in our pilot appreciated most. We trained the mentors, making sure they were aware of research and teaching techniques so that they could advise on issues such as dealing with enhanced workloads, changing assessment regimes, working with parents and interpreting data. We ensured that new teachers were working with mentors and colleagues from other schools and the University, creating a regional network with a focus on developing pedagogy.

Our goal is to work with our school partners to create the conditions where new teachers, as well as their pupils, thrive. Schools that are supportive professional learning communities, working in partnership with universities, are more likely to retain new teachers.

Through our work on the early roll-out, I hope that early career teachers have recognised the value that educational research brings to practice, and the role it can play in helping them cope with daily challenges. Those challenges won’t simply come to an end, however. Learning methods will change and new educational research will bring emerging ideas to the fore. Teachers should consider how professional development could support them throughout their career, not just the induction process.

To learn more about how Manchester Metropolitan University can support early career teachers through professional development, find out more here.

Professor Robert Hulme is the Head of School, Teacher Education and Professional Development at Manchester Metropolitan University