John Catt Educational
28 Feb 2022
Unless you have been living out the pandemic in an underground bunker, you will have heard of the early career framework (ECF). In response to recruitment and retention problems across the sector, the ECF is a mandatory professional development framework for early-career teachers (ECTs).
Editor Tanya Ovenden-Hope introduces the book as a collection of insights from those closely connected to the ECF. What follows are 17 chapters’ worth of reflections from those who have played active roles in its design and implementation. These range from academics to school leaders, and include training providers selected by the DfE to deliver the ECF.
The first sections examine the ECF’s origins, and this extends to inviting comment from the lead providers on their vision for it. But while Ovenden-Hope makes a good case that it felt important to give them an opportunity to explain their rationale, this decision leads to crowded literature on why different training providers think aspects of their programme work best. Despite my direct involvement in the delivery of the ECF and a confident understanding of it, I felt overwhelmed by the volume of information. So for novices attempting to make sense of the ECF, that’s bound to be even more challenging.
The book’s later chapters revolve around an analysis of the framework’s implementation from the perspective of leaders involved in the day-to-day of the ECF in schools. Fresh perspectives from academics are provided that shed light on sustaining learning too, and it is when offering such nuances and reflections that Ovenden-Hope’s book becomes more than a read about CPD.
These pages offer road-tested insights into what effective CPD looks like, from school leaders who convey strongly that teacher induction is not a framework to be worked through but a grounding for a career-long commitment to ongoing learning. Among these chapters, there are a range of reflection points that serve as actionable and digestible pit-stops to consider the ‘so what?’ in relation to their practice, and these make for excellent CPD in themselves.
One noteworthy offering is provided by Rachel Lofthouse and Marc Turu Porcel of Leeds Beckett University. Both contributors explore the value of coaching and mentoring in relation to ECTs and, as teacher educators and researchers, compellingly caution against a technicist ‘know that’ and ‘know how’ structure to coaching and learning. I felt particularly challenged by this chapter to consider how I might better use coaching and mentoring to provide a more robust diet of challenge, critical thinking and discourse to my interactions with mentors and ECTs. If there is, “the potential to create sustained and reciprocal professional learning opportunities” that is as rooted in empathy as it is in evidence, I want to be a part of that!
I’m someone directly involved in the daily development of ECTs, and Ovenden-Hope’s book has provided me with greater cohesive clarity on why we need the ECF, but also why we need to continue to learn from its early inception.
However, my frustration with it is that it isn’t clear who its target audience is. There are some excellent and actionable case studies and reflections for system leaders, mentors, CPD leaders and even early-career colleagues, so it fulfils its purpose as a handbook of best practice and reflections. However, too much of its impact is lost amid the noise of a crowded marketplace of many voices that want to be associated with the ECF.
In spite of that, Ovenden-Hope reminds us that the development of effective teachers, especially early-career teachers, is not simple. That it is complex and demands our attention. And that it is about much more than just resolving a recruitment and retention crisis in the profession; it’s about enabling colleagues to be highly effective so that children can be better served.
And those messages alone mean it deserves a read.