The Early Career Framework for Newly Qualified Teachers
This week the Department for Education has published its Early Career Framework for teachers.
This is a two-year package of structured training and support for early career teachers. This should ensure that newly qualified teachers have access to high quality support and professional development at a crucial stage in their development as teachers.
The framework aims to build on the knowledge and skills that teachers have gained during their initial teacher training (ITT) programme. This will be particularly valuable for those teachers who have completed short initial training programmes. Thus, it builds on and complements the ITT phase. It is designed to support professional development in 5 key areas: behaviour management, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment and professional behaviours. It is structured against the teachers’ standards to ensure that there is continuity with the ITT phase. However, it is not designed as an assessment tool to assess teacher performance and teachers are not required to evidence the aspects of it. The 10% allocation of time given to newly qualified teachers for professional development will remain and a 5% allocation will be assigned for professional development in the second year of teaching. It will be rolled out in the North East, Bradford, Doncaster and Greater Manchester from September 2020 and national roll out will be from 2021.
The Early Career Framework has been informed by evidence from research. There are many positive aspects to this framework. Particular strengths include the emphasis on:
- lesson sequences to ensure progression in pupils’ knowledge, skills and understanding;
- breaking complex material into smaller steps;
- identifying misconceptions in lessons;
- teacher modelling;
- teaching subject-specific vocabulary;
- consolidation and practice;
- teachers thinking aloud when modelling learning so that they make their thought processes explicit;
- intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation;
- scaffolding learning;
- reading for pleasure.
These aspects are integral to high-quality teaching. However, other aspects of this new framework require a degree of critical interrogation. There is an emphasis on tasks which challenge and stretch pupils without any discussion of what these words mean for pupils of different abilities and needs. The framework also emphasises the need for teachers to teach a challenging curriculum. These terms are problematic because they can be easily misinterpreted, resulting in pupils being set tasks which are not developmentally appropriate for them. The level of ‘stretch’ and ‘challenge’ needs to be established taking into account children’s current level of development and their next steps. One size does not fit all. There is an emphasis on teachers having high aspirations for children but again this is a term which has not been explained in the framework. It would be inappropriate for teachers to have the same aspirations of all pupils given that children may be vastly different in their abilities, interests and their own aspirations also need to be taken into account. It would have been useful if the framework had been more explicit about what stretch, challenge and aspirations might look like for different pupils.
The emphasis on behaviour management is on the use of rules, sanctions and volume of noise in a classroom. This behaviourist approach focuses on the consequences of behaviour rather than the causes. It is disappointing that there is no expectation for teachers to learn about solution-focused approaches to behaviour management which focus on developing the child’s sense of self.
There is an emphasis on the use of textbooks in lessons. It is difficult to imagine anything duller than working your way through a textbook. It is disappointing that more innovative pedagogical approaches have not been listed in the framework.
The language of assessment is also interesting. There is an emphasis on quizzing pupils to check their understanding. This can place some pupils under significant stress and could result in disengagement in lessons. There are far more effective approaches to assessment than quizzing pupils. Another strategy which is suggested is the use of multiple-choice questions to check pupils’ understanding. It somehow feels like the clock is turning back to an education system that privileges knowledge recall, learning by rote and superficial learning. There is an emphasis on synthetic phonics and I have written about my concerns about this extensively in a range of publications. Again, learning to read is not just about phonics and one approach to reading may not work with all children.
Having spent some time with Head Teachers this week I have had rich opportunities to debate the current education system in England. It is not fit for purpose. The emphasis on children and young people succeeding in summative high-stakes assessments is resulting in superficial learning. Once the exams have finished much of the knowledge will evaporate! We need an education system which prepares young people for their future lives. We live in a world of rapid technological change. Given the pace of change we cannot anticipate what the world of work might look like in 10, 15 or 20 years’ time. The pupils in schools today will need to be creative in the future. They will need to be able to problem solve. They will need to innovate. They will need to be able to work in teams, challenge their colleagues and negotiate. The processes which underpin learning are just as important as the ‘outcomes’ that we currently value so much. Education should be the best time of a child’s life. It should provide young people with rich experiences that they will never forget. It should shape their attitudes, values and beliefs so that today’s pupils become good citizens in the future. Children and young people need to be exposed to a broad, rich, creative and exciting curriculum which excites and motivates them rather than a curriculum which disengages them. The new Early Career Framework has not convinced me that young people will receive their entitlement to a truly transformative education which gets them obsessed about learning. Only when they are obsessed with learning will they become lifelong learners. Currently, they are being short-changed.
Jonathan is Professor of Inclusive Education. His research focuses on LGBTQ+ inclusion and mental health. He is a researcher, teacher educator and qualified teacher.