DfE considers bigger classroom role for trainee teacher mentors

The government is considering asking mentors to spend more time in the classroom with trainee and new teachers.

The Department for Education is currently developing an “early-career framework” that will support new and trainee teachers, following its decision to lengthen the induction period new recruits go through.

But ITT experts said mentors would not be able to take a more hands-on role unless timetables and resources enable them to do so.

Gareth Conyard, the deputy director of the DfE’s teacher workforce development team, said mentoring will be “central” to the government’s new early career framework.

Mentors already spend some of their time in the classroom with trainee and new teachers, but the amount of time they spend on that aspect of their work is being reassessed.

The department is currently considering whether “having a mentor sit in with” trainees in class would be more beneficial than theory-based training, Conyard told delegates at a Westminster Education Forum event.

He said having mentors “sit in” and observe trainees while they manage a class had been suggested as “more effective practice” than simply teaching theory and letting trainees “go off and do a course”.

Aly Spencer, head of initial teacher training at Fylde Coast Teaching School Alliance in Blackpool, said the mentor or tutor role would need to be redefined in order to be effective.

“That role needs to be crucial – as important as data for the school,” she said.

The mentor needs to be able to sit in lessons, particularly “at the front, watching the children” rather than intimidating the trainee.

To ensure these mentors have the maximum impact for trainees, schools must make sure they have both the time and the “emotional intelligence” for the job.

Sam Twiselton, the director of the Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, added that the proposals for an early-career framework could be a “game-changer”, but not without careful planning.

“Without the time and resources where necessary, please don’t bother,” she said.