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Chris Egerton
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Intense workload putting new Early Career Framework induction for newly qualified teachers at risk, say school leaders

Today (Thurs 16 Dec), school leaders’ union NAHT releases the findings of a survey of its members on their experiences of and views on the rollout of the Early Career Framework (ECF).

The ECF is a new mandatory two-year induction period for newly qualified teachers (now known as Early Career Teachers or ECTs), effective from September 2021.

The survey, of more than 1,000 school leaders in England, reveals that, although there is a fair amount of support for the new two-year induction period, there are serious concerns about the new workload it is driving and a worrying risk that this might increase rather than decrease the number of teachers dropping out.

  • Support: Just over half (55 per cent) of school leaders agreed or strongly agreed with the decision to move to a two-year induction period for Early Career Teachers. Almost half (49 per cent) feel that the ECF will have a positive or very positive impact on the professional development of ECTs. 40 per cent think the ECF will deliver a positive impact on the quality of teaching.
  • Workload: An overwhelming majority (95 per cent) said that the ECF had increased workload for a newly qualified teacher (64 per cent said the ECF had significantly increased workload). All respondents (99 per cent) said that the ECF has had an overwhelmingly negative impact on the workload of mentors. Over eight in ten (81 per cent) said that the workload of mentors had significantly increased. Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents told us that the ECF will have a negative or very negative impact on the work life balance of ECTs.
  • Retention: A third (32 per cent) of school leaders feared that the ECF will have a negative impact on retention rates for ECTs. Just under a third (28 per cent) reported that mentors did not want to continue their mentoring role as a direct result of the impact of the ECF.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “It is enormously concerning that schools are finding the additional workload from the ECF so debilitating. One of the key aims of this new system is to improve retention of early career teachers. That obviously won’t happen if they are so overwhelmed in their first two years.

“Even more concerning, those who are stepping up to mentor new teachers are also drowning in the resulting workload and considering not continuing in this crucial role.

“What’s needed is immediate action to create flexibility in the programme to allow ECTs and mentors to focus on what matters most for their individual contexts. Next, DfE should return to the ECF to its original intention – a programme of support for new teachers, rather than an early career curriculum.

“The two-year induction period clearly has great potential to improve professional development for teachers in their early careers, and there is general support for the new system. But changes must be made to bring the workload and impact on work-life balance under control, or it could end up doing considerable damage to retention rates, even as it tries to improve them.”

First published 16 December 2021