The new programme to support new teachers is a once in a generation opportunity – and ITE providers can make it a success, says James Noble-Rogers

The much anticipated early career framework (ECF) to support new teachers during their first two years in the profession was published to generally warm applause by the Department for Education in late January.

Its introduction is long overdue. For many years the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) and others have been calling for new teachers to have an entitlement to structured early professional development that builds on and complements their initial teacher education (ITE). However good ITE programmes are, only so much ground can be covered in sufficient depth in what, in most cases, are nine-month programmes.

Teachers who qualify through undergraduate programmes are in a slightly different position as they have more time to spend on key areas such as special needs, behaviour management and school curriculum-related subject knowledge. It is hoped that the ECF will be flexible enough to accommodate the needs of teachers qualifying through the different routes, as well as those working in a variety of school contexts.

The government has yet to make any announcements about how the framework will be delivered, although it will be available in pilot areas from September next year. It need not, however, be difficult.

This once in a generation opportunity must not be squandered

The ECF is, helpfully, grouped under the teacher standards around which all ITE programmes are based. A readymade, tried and tested regulatory framework already exists and the structures in place will allow choice, for NQTs and the schools that employ them. They will facilitate the scope to link the ECF to master’s level CPD, the benefits of which are well documented and have been acknowledged by the DfE, most recently in the 2018 Strengthening QTS and improving career progression for teachers consultation proposals. Progress towards teaching becoming an all-master’s qualified profession would, as we have said on many occasions, represent the biggest step change in the status of teaching since it became an all-graduate profession in the 1970s.

What I, and others, are proposing is that accredited ITE providers (and by that I mean all accredited providers) be given the licence to deliver the ECF. This will ensure national coverage, and will:

• Allow NQTs and their employing schools to continue to work in partnership with the providers they already have strong relationships with, with the ECF being delivered in school with the support of mentors trained through the partnership and, where appropriate, outside the immediate employment setting at the university or the lead school of a SCITT.

• Allow the ECF to focus on the development needs of the individual new teacher, which the ITE provider will be already aware of, and the specific needs of the school they are working in.

• Avoid the need for a costly and possibly ineffective procurement exercise that might result in untested providers delivering the ECF in accordance with one-size-fits-all and inflexible contracts that could undermine existing partnerships and might not secure either full national coverage or a tailored approach.

• Avoid the need for the DfE to commission and pay for supporting curriculum materials as ITE providers already have the expertise to develop programmes that can be mapped against the ECF.

• Allow Ofsted to easily check quality and compliance through an expanded ITE inspection framework, something which is fortuitously already under review.

Things will not, of course, be quite as straightforward as I have suggested. NQTs won’t, for example, always work in the same schools in which they trained and therefore with the same providers. But a workable model is already largely in place and ready to be used. This once in a generation opportunity must not be squandered.