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Teacher Development: Implementing an Early Career Framework

This article will guide you through the process and challenges of implementing an early career framework within your school

We will consider some of the important steps to prepare for implementing the ECF, including:

  • writing an implementation plan
  • identifying an implementation team
  • integrating the ECF into your school’s professional development offer
  • resolving practical issues such as timetabling and IT
  • anticipating difficulties

Writing an implementation plan

Implementation experts recommend that you should allow a long time before introducing a new initiative – even as long as two years or more (Sharples et al., 2019)! Of course this is rarely feasible in schools and there are particular challenges for schools this year. Starting to plan as soon as possible will help ensure that the ECF has the greatest possible chance of success in your school. You will need to consider how each element of the ECF will be implemented and to prepare people for the part they will play in implementation. You may also need to consider what might need ‘deimplementing’ in your school – activities, practices and habits that need to be changed in the light of the ECF, or which do not support it and need to be stopped completely.

Your implementation plan should also include opportunities for reflection and review (Moir, 2018). This should involve discussion with colleagues and can involve using engagement data provided by suppliers as part of some programmes. You should familiarise yourself with what data will be supplied and how it can be used supportively. It is always important to check this data for accuracy.

Identify your implementation team

It is good practice to bring together an ‘implementation team’ (Moir, 2018). The nature of your team will depend on the size of your school, but you might consider including one or more senior leaders, the induction lead and one or more mentors. It should include a senior leader with the authority to make school-level decisions (Moir, 2018). We found that the ECF pilot programmes were most successful in schools with high-level support from senior leadership.

You will need to make sure that you and your implementation team – plus any others involved in delivery – are familiarised with the ECF programme so that you are able to support it effectively once it is in place. You may need to spend time shaping expectations, particularly when working with experienced mentors, so that they are aware of the ways in which the ECF differs from their accustomed prior practice. Some induction leads in pilot schools found that experienced mentors were unwilling to engage in the programme or change their practices.

The role of the induction lead

The role of the induction lead and the wider senior leadership team made a big difference in how ECT development was valued in pilot schools, which in turn impacted on how well mentors and ECTs engaged with the programme and its perceived promise (expected success).

Induction leads in pilot schools fulfilled their roles in different ways. In some schools the induction lead maintained a hands-on approach throughout the programme, being closely involved with supporting ECTs. In other schools, induction leads set the ECF programme up and then stepped back, delegating the ongoing leadership of the programme to mentors. Both approaches worked well in pilot schools and effective induction leads had a key role in securing high quality engagement from mentors.

Active ingredients

ECF programmes are designed as complete interventions and you should try to implement them as closely as possible to how they are designed. You will need to identify the core elements or ‘active ingredients’ of your chosen programme and make sure that these can be delivered as intended. We found examples where pilot schools had diverged from the programme design, by leaving elements out or reducing their frequency, because there was not enough time available to complete tasks. Another issue was using a different coaching model to the one specified by the supplier. We advise that you keep as close as possible to the planned programme in order for it to work as the supplier has designed it to.

A good example is the use of ‘instructional coaching’ in the pilot programmes. Instructional coaching is a specific approach to coaching with clear models to follow. This approach was well-liked by many for its use of short drop-ins and structured follow-up conversations, but some experienced mentors resisted it or found it difficult to adapt their practices.

Identifying overlap, gaps and conflicts

The ECF represents a significant amount of work and there is a risk that it contributes to excessive workload if it is not implemented carefully. Mentors were at a particular risk of this during the pilot programme, but some ECTs and induction leads also found themselves affected. Workload was a particular problem when the ECF was run alongside other programmes already operating in schools, sometimes resulting in the duplication of activities or topics.

Pilot ECF programmes worked well in schools that had no pre-existing ECT induction programme and so adopted it fully. In other schools the ECF ran alongside pre-existing provision. One induction lead had spent worthwhile time mapping their school’s existing induction programme to the ECF. This important, one-off activity helps to keep workloads manageable and avoid repetition.

While the pilot programmes were highly regarded, many participants reported having to make time to discuss activities that fell outside the scope of the ECF, for example preparing for parents evenings, or supporting pastoral responsibilities or school assessment activities. It is important to identify these areas of teachers’ work that are not included in the ECF and ensure that time is made for them.

Another issue arose because of tensions between statutory induction assessment and the supportive ECF programme. A small number of schools experienced difficulties where an ECT was not making good progress and was at risk of failure. The DfE has now brought statutory induction in line with the ECF, but you should still plan ahead for how you will respond if any of your ECTs do not make the progress intended. It is good practice where possible to separate the roles of induction assessor and ECT mentor. This will ensure that the mentor’s supportive role is kept apart from the formal assessment process.

Anticipating difficulties

It may be helpful to carry out a ‘pre-mortem’ on the ECF with your implementation team. This means imagining that the ECF has been implemented but that it has gone wrong. Discussing the possible ways that implementation (hypothetically) has failed can help you identify potential difficulties and come up with strategies to prevent them from occurring. This approach can also help you think about monitoring and review.

© UCL Institute of Education
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