The Importance of the Teachers
Last month, the Department for Education launched the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy, and the Early Career Framework (ECF). There was an astonishing amount of support from the sector for both. I think this reflects the way the DfE worked with the sector to develop this policy, but particularly the ECF.
I believe that the ECF is perhaps the most important education policy since The Importance of Teaching White Paper in 2010. It offers an evidence-informed way of strengthening early career retention, development and ultimately the quality of the teachers in the education system in England.
Importantly, the ECF is not, and should not be used as an assessment framework. The assessment framework for newly qualified teachers (NQTs) in their induction year remains the Teachers’ Standards. Rather, it is the entitlement to a professional learning curriculum in those crucial early years.
The ECF gives us a professional learning framework for early career teachers that recognises that teaching is (or should be) an evidence-informed profession.
Statutory induction is the bridge between initial teacher training and a career in teaching, although there is no legal requirement to complete an induction period if an NQT intends to work solely for example in the independent sector, an academy or an FE institution. But in practice, almost all academies do require an assessment of the NQT against the standards.
It has always seemed a little odd to me that an assessment of NQTs is made with no verifiable curriculum framework in place. It is surely the case that curriculum comes first, followed by assessment and then finally qualifications.
The importance of the ECF is not just that it is the basis for curriculum design to support NQTs during the induction period, but that it is underpinned by such strong evidence. The ECF gives us a professional learning framework for early career teachers that recognises that teaching is (or should be) an evidence-informed profession. Teaching, like all the established professions, has a body of knowledge and it is this body of knowledge that is so persuasively present in the ECF.
It feels very important that the content of the framework and its underpinning evidence has been independently assessed and endorsed by the Education Endowment Foundation as drawing on the best available evidence and that this evidence has been interpreted with fidelity. This is an extraordinary step forward in evidence-informed policy making.
The ECF is a marker, not just a marker of the importance of teaching, but also the value that the profession (and wider society) places on teachers in their early careers. It is a strong statement that collectively, we believe in the value and potential of teachers, and in the power of professional learning throughout a whole career but particularly in the early career years.
The ECF will help to create a system which relies on the professional knowledge, values and behaviours of our teachers to propel continuing improvement. And it shifts the focus from central direction to the potential in schools and trusts, working collaboratively, to:
- Provide high-quality support to new entrants and existing teachers;
- Create school cultures of professional learning underpinned by evidence and strong subject knowledge;
- Encourage innovation to discover future leading practices; and
- Create professional ownership of the outcomes and quality of education.
It is also important that DfE has indicated that it will expand the range of professional qualifications to include specialisms to promote specialist career pathways, including a National Professional Qualification in Teacher Development. Collectively, we are gearing the system up to create the conditions in which evidence-informed professional learning becomes the norm.
National Teacher Accreditation (NTA), the only national independent Appropriate Body quality assuring the induction process in all types of schools and trusts, will be working closely with partner organisations to support the implementation of ECF.
Teachers as they enter the profession typically see themselves as contributing to educational excellence, the creation of a fair society and the common good. This brings a strong sense of energy, collective purpose and professionalism. Harnessing that energy, purpose and professionalism and exciting teachers about teaching has never been more important. And the ECF is a very important step in helping us to do just that.
I believe we are at a significant moment in relation to teacher education in England. The work that we do collectively now may not just be world-class, but world-leading.