Ministers will promise to give early career framework mentors more flexibility on how to support new teachers after complaints that the government’s flagship training reforms have become a “straitjacket”.
In a letter due to be sent to schools today and seen by Schools Week, schools minister Robin Walker will thank schools for their part in delivering the “seismic” shift in support for new teachers under the £130 million-a-year early career framework (ECF).
More than 25,000 teachers – nearly all new teachers – and 23,000 mentors are using the two-year programme.
Teachers get a 5 per cent timetable reduction in their second year in the classroom for development, with more experienced staff freed up to be mentors.
Walker wrote that feedback had been “largely positive”, but the department was now improving areas that were “causing some difficulties”.
Programme criticised over workload
Critics say the programme is restrictive and workload heavy, with one of the government’s own ECF providers saying staff have to “drop something” to take part.
Walker said they were reviewing materials “to make them as user-friendly as possible” and “simplifying the digital service, making it easier to navigate”.
Department officials will look at giving mentors “more options” for when they can do training, including starting in the preceding summer term and using more online delivery where appropriate. The government is also looking at offering more flexibility on when induction programmes are delivered, “especially in the autumn term of the first year”.
Walker said: “It is crucial that we maintain early career teachers’ entitlement to all of the high-quality content contained in these carefully sequenced [provider] programmes, but we also want mentors to be able to use their professional judgement in supporting early career teachers to understand and apply the content of the programmes to their particular context and role.
“We will therefore work with the lead providers and headteachers to produce guidance ahead of September so that mentors are clear how they can do this.”
A survey by the school leaders’ union NAHT found that nine out of ten heads said the ECF had created extra work for new teachers, with concerns that mentors were also “drowning” in work.
Writing for Schools Week, Sam Strickland, principal at The Duston School in Northampton, said the reforms had “already become a straitjacket and a workload-inducing tick-box exercise”.
He said that the “prescriptive approach takes what should be a scaffold and instead builds a prison” and many of the materials “miss the mark and need further quality assurance”.