By Mark Richards,
A survey conducted by the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) has found some serious concerns regarding the Early Career Framework (ECF). The framework has been introduced to improve the retention of teachers in the early years of their careers. However, a third of school leaders who responded to the survey fear that the ECF – designed to support new teachers – will drive more of them out of the profession.
The main area of concern is about the level of additional workload that the Early Career Framework is creating for teachers in the early stage of their careers, as well as those colleagues who are working as mentors to early career teachers. In fact, over 32% of respondents to the union’s survey believe that the ECF will have a negative impact on recruitment and retention. A similar number of school leaders (28%) also expressed concern that staff who had taken on the responsibility of mentors wanted to relinquish their role.
The results of the survey are extremely worrying. 99% thought that the Early Career Framework has had an overwhelmingly negative impact on the workload of mentors. Meanwhile, 95% believe that the ECF has increased the workload expected for newly qualified teachers. Workload always appears high on the list of reasons why teachers choose to leave the profession. Therefore, it seems ridiculous that a framework designed to improve retention of early career teachers is seen to be having such a negative impact on workload. The fact that 64% of survey respondents believe that the Early Career Framework will have such a negative impact on the work/life balance of newly qualified teachers is a damning indictment of the ECF.
It appears that the framework that on paper is designed to support professionals is, in practice, debilitating and destructive. The poor retention rates of early career teachers are obviously a massive concern but the last thing that is needed is anything that puts even more pressure on new recruits and overwhelms them so much. Indeed, it’s possibly even more concerning to see how poorly the ECF is impacting on mentors. These are staff who have stepped up to take on a new and important role. To feel that are drowning in the role and wanting to give it up will do absolutely nothing to help with the retention of more experienced professionals.
The argument against the Early Career Framework is that it is essentially an early career curriculum, rather than a programme of support. This will obviously be counter-productive. In principle, the early Career Framework has broad support across the profession. A two-year induction period obviously has a lot of potential as a way of strengthening professional development for teachers at such a crucial stage of their careers. However, unless changes are made that will improve implementation of the ECF so that it doesn’t have such a negative impact on workload and work/life balance, it really could end up doing considerable damage to the already alarming retention rates – even if the ECF does have the best of intentions.
Over half of school leaders either agree or strongly agree that the move to a two-year induction period is a positive one. Furthermore, 49% of leaders believe that the ECF can have a positive impact on the professional development of early career teachers. So, all is not lost – but change does need to happen, and fast.
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