While the introduction of the new Early Career Framework (ECF) has been a steep learning curve, the reforms provide Early Career Teachers (ECT) and schools with significant benefits. However, in order to get the most of these changes, there are a few steps that we have taken to ensure a successful implementation.
Benefits of visiting fellowship
As the trust-wide ECF coordinator, training as a visiting fellow with the DfE’s ECF programme provider, Ambition Institute, has been a key part in our success in adapting to the new framework. As a visiting fellow, I have been trained to deliver the programme to our ECT cohort. But more than that, it means I am able to provide our ECTs, their mentors and senior leaders with insight into how the next two years will look and the best way to prepare for each stage.
It also allows me to provide them with personalised training in small groups. I can focus on areas they are particularly interested in or struggling with, and I can offer them trust-specific training sessions that focus on vital parts of the job that are often left out of generic ECT training, such as planning assemblies or organising school trips.
Start as you mean to go on
We see ensuring our ECTS make a successful start to their careers with us as an investment in their future and ours. So creating an environment where they feel comfortable and supported is about more than settling them in quickly; it’s about hanging on to them for the long term too.
Our ECTs are given an early start in June/July so they can become familiar with their school, meet other ECTs, begin training and start getting paid, offering them financial security over the summer. Encouragingly, our ECTs often express how this constant support from the get-go makes them feel valued and allows them to flourish in their new roles.
Collaboration between ECTs
But we also know that no teacher can flourish alone. That’s why we encourage our ECTs to build a support network with one another before starting their trust career journeys together. Through this network, they can build unique working relationships with their peers and other colleagues across the trust, as well as gain experience of different school environments.
To support these, we facilitate our ECTs visiting one another’s schools throughout the programme and organise team bonding experiences, such as the end-of-year residential weekend. Each year, we see the benefits of this collaboration as our ECTs grow and thrive together.
And we don’t stop there. Ongoing provision of CPD for them as a group as they go into their second year of teaching enables their bond to continue to strengthen.
Invest time in your mentors
Lastly, of course, none of this is possible without good mentors. We carefully select mentors for our trainees who are best placed to provide them with specific advice on navigating their first years in the profession. But for mentors to support ECTs effectively, they need to be supported too. We have always placed the utmost importance on providing our mentors with the guidance they need to do the job, and we are pleased this is now a requirement for those delivering the ECF.
When providing this guidance, it’s key to remember that mentors need to understand the responsibilities of their role and how they can mentor in the most constructive ways. But trusts and schools should not stop at offering such guidance. Leaders should also make themselves available to answer their questions and help them tackle challenges.
Because challenging though ECF implementation might be, it is after all only a minimum requirement. Going beyond it is not only imperative to our ECTs’ success, but to solving the retention crisis.
At Learning in Harmony Trust, we continue our ECT training into their third year. Our offer also includes CPD beyond the statutory requirement, and we pay ECTs a retention allowance for their first five years.
We go the extra mile for them, because we know they’ll go the extra mile for our students.