Early Career Framework: Choosing your school's induction mentors

Written by: Simon Clark | Published:
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Under the new Early Career Framework, schools must appoint an induction mentor for their early career teachers. Simon Clark explains the role of the mentor, how you can pick the best candidates, and ways you can support them in their role

With the arrival of the Early Career Framework (ECF) in September, school leaders will be expected to appoint each early career teacher (ECT) with an induction mentor.

Who they are and what they do?

All ECTs going through induction from September 1 must have both an induction tutor and an induction mentor. This new role of induction mentor will fulfil a separate and distinct role to that of the induction tutor.

While the induction tutor’s role is to “provide regular monitoring and support, and coordination of assessment”, as indicated in the statutory guidance (DfE, 2021), the role of the induction mentor is to:

  • Regularly meet with the ECT for structured mentoring sessions to provide targeted feedback.
  • Work with the ECT and colleagues to make sure the ECT receives a high-quality ECF-based induction programme.
  • Provide, or broker, effective support, including subject or phase-specific coaching.
  • Take prompt action if the ECT is having difficulties.

Induction mentors must provide their support to ECTs within a single school setting. Multi-academy trusts (MATs) will need to provide an induction mentor for each school individually, rather than use a mentor to support ECTs at schools within the trust.

Mentoring is a new role and you will need to allocate a member of your teaching staff to act as mentor. The only stipulation is that they are expected to have qualified teacher status. The guidance is also clear that it is “expected” that mentors and tutors will not be the same person.

However, to support mentors in their role, you should work to ensure good communication between induction mentors and induction tutors. Although these are distinct roles, tutors can provide insight and context to an ECT’s issues that will help mentors to tailor their own approach. Arranging time for tutors and mentors to meet regularly will help mentors to see the bigger picture, and pre-empt any issues the ECT may face.

Mentors help ECTs receive an ECF-based induction

As part of mentoring, mentors should be able to guide ECTs in growing the skills highlighted in the Early Career Framework (DfE, 2019). In its own words, the ECF underpins what all ECTs “should be entitled to learn about and learn how to do”.

The five core areas – behaviour management, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment and professional behaviours – provide a framework for mentors to share knowledge and skills so that, for example, ECTs can learn:

  • To communicate a belief in the academic potential of all pupils (Standard 1). Mentors can help ECTs by sharing effective use of language and ways to create a classroom environment where mistakes are acceptable and used as a chance to learn.
  • To build on pupils’ prior knowledge (Standard 2). Mentors can give examples of times they have identified misconceptions and taken steps to prevent this.
  • To plan effective lessons (Standard 4). Mentors can help ECTs become more effective teachers by demonstrating how good lesson planning works and the impact it has on pupils’ experience.

Experience is key

Anyone who holds QTS can act as an induction mentor – but realistically, a less experienced teacher will not have the professional insight required to provide effective support and coaching.

Where possible, choose a mentor who has at least three to four years’ teaching experience. Teachers who have worked in a range of settings and across phases will also have more practical experience than those who have only held positions in a single school.

Remember, a mentor needs to provide structured support – and the more experience a teacher has, the better suited they are to the position. Induction mentors are there to support new teachers to learn about the craft of teaching, as much as the practicalities. The best candidate for mentor roles can share their knowledge and guide the ECT to become a rounded teacher within your school.

Good teaching is good teaching – regardless of subject

A subject teacher may seem like an obvious mentor for a subject-focused ECT, but avoid this assumption. Mentors are there to support ECTs as they become better teachers in general – not to simply provide subject-specific tips and help.

A history teacher may appear to be a good mentor for a history ECT, but a more experienced science teacher, who has worked in several schools, may be able to provide more effective professional guidance and feedback. A science teacher can still broker subject-specific support from a history teacher, so ECTs don’t lose out if their mentor is from a different subject.

Time is a factor – understand the commitment

Mentoring will require 20 hours for mentoring sessions across the second academic year, with a funded five per cent timetable reduction. You need to consider how your choice of mentor will impact regular teaching.

It is also important that the teacher chosen to mentor actually wants to do it. Mentoring is an important role and speaking to your teachers about how they feel will help make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Use the mentor training you are offered

Mentor training is an essential part of offering an ECF-based induction. Schools that choose the funded provision approach will receive online and face-to-face training for mentors, with additional funding available for the time mentors spend on training. This will consist of 36 hours of time per-mentor over two years.

Schools that use DfE-accredited materials to deliver their ECT induction will also receive mentor training guidelines and training session outlines. These materials will provide the framework for mentors to guide and support ECTs.

Schools who choose to develop their own materials must also develop mentor training materials based on the ECF’s eight standards and the evidence and practice statements.

Mentor training is not a one-time thing

On-going mentor training is going to be necessary. When the person who acted as a mentor has moved on to another school, for example, a new mentor will need to be appointed. At the same time, if two or three years pass between ECT placements, you should not assume that an induction mentor who has received training in the past is ready to take up the role again.

Retain all mentor training materials and make sure they are available to mentors, or those who might act as a mentor in the future. Take feedback from current mentors on how they used the training materials and any issues that develop with ECT mentoring, and consider how to address these with future mentors.

  • Simon Clark is a content editor at The Key, which provides intelligence and resources for education leaders. The advice in this article is taken from The Key’s resource “ECT induction mentors: Who to choose and how to support them”, which they worked on with David New. Visit https://thekeysupport.com/

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