The Early Career Framework will stop us throwing new teachers in at the deep end

1 Feb 2019, 15:00

Clare Sealy explains why the new early career framework is the best bit of edu-news she’s seen for some time

Education is going to have a tough job if it wants to top this January in terms of important, sector-defining announcements. The new Ofsted framework brings renewed hope that the inspectorate can become the organisation it should have been from the start, and the implications and potential pitfalls have been debated for weeks now.

It seems the Department for Education doesn’t want to be left out, because it has just announced the new Early Career Framework (ECF).

Amanda Spielman and Sean Harford have hogged the headlines, but Damian Hinds and Nick Gibb are now on the scene – and their offering is the most exciting edu-news I’ve seen in a long time.

The ECF the potential to transform what it will be like to be a new teacher: £130 million a year for mentoring, full framework training programmes, free curricula and training materials, and 5 per cent off-timetable for second year teachers are all helpful, important and funded right off the bat.

But dig deeper and the framework really shines. The explicit statement that has potential is that the framework “has been designed to support early career teacher development in five core areas – behaviour management, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment and professional behaviours”.

The stupidest thing we as a profession do is throw new teachers in at the deep end. “Hey new teacher – congrats on finishing your training. Now go do the two hardest parts of the job, creating lesson plans and managing behaviour, on a full timetable with a crippling amount of paperwork and a level of support that varies wildly from one school to the next.”

Is it any wonder so many leave? I’ve been a teacher for more than 30 years and I only properly got the hang of both a good while after I started.

Everyone – the DfE, Ofsted, schools – is implicated in this vicious cycle. By giving all new teachers clear, defined support that will help them get to grips with the most difficult parts of the job, we will be infinitely increasing our chances of helping (and thereby retaining) new teachers who have a passion for sharing knowledge.

I can’t wait to see it put into practice

As a primary head, I’m particularly excited about the support that it will offer to my new teachers. Initial teacher training courses can be a bit of a lottery; some are brilliant and balanced, others lopsided in favour of outdated, evidence-free clichés that instantly fall apart in front of 30 kids who don’t want to sit still. This framework gives me confidence that even those who have been fed out of date nonsense, or left to flounder in class with minimal opportunities to learn about what research tells us is most likely to work, can receive the support and help they need without my team and I having to do it all ourselves.

The benefits for key stages 1 and 2 are obvious. I don’t think anyone could blame an overworked new Year 4 teacher for turning to a rubbish lesson plan on how to craft Roman shields out of cardboard at 11pm the day before; hopefully now they will have more time and better understanding of how to plan absorbing and challenging lessons across the curriculum.

The core aims and proposals of the framework are 100 per cent applicable to early years teaching, and, if done right, will go a long way to help schools support new EY teachers effectively, something that some schools struggle with, especially when leadership lacks depth knowledge of this crucial phase.

To be honest, my main issue is that the framework is only for new teachers. Everyone – myself, other heads and chief executives – could learn from this. Almost every teacher could benefit from the kind of professional development that newbies will be getting here.

I don’t want to be a cheerleader for a government I have a lot of issues with. But there’s no denying that when it comes to classroom practice it’s getting more and more right, and this is perhaps the biggest example yet. I can’t wait to see it put into practice.

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