Early Career Framework: Roll-out and next steps

Written by: Leora Cruddas | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The Early Career Framework is here and with it comes a new two-year induction cycle for early career teachers across England. Leora Cruddas identifies some key questions schools should be addressing as full roll-out of the ECF begins...

As we welcome our pupils and staff back to school for the new academic year, your thoughts will no doubt once again be returning to education recovery. How can we ensure no child and indeed no teacher is left behind?

We know that early career teachers (ECTs), like pupils, have experienced significant disruption. Those in the first year of induction will have had some of their initial teaching training disrupted and those in the second year of induction may have missed extensive periods of being at school in a community of practice.

We know that the best bet we can make to support education recovery is to ensure the strong quality of our teachers. So, it makes sense to have “high quality teaching” as one of the key themes of a strategic approach to education recovery. In fact, the Education Endowment Foundation’s Tiered Approach (EEF, 2021) lists this as one of three key themes in recovery, the other two being targeted academic support and wider strategies.

The best available evidence indicates that great teaching is the most important lever schools and trusts have to improve pupil attainment. Ensuring every teacher is supported in delivering high-quality teaching is essential to achieving the best outcomes for all pupils, particularly the most disadvantaged.

The Early Career Framework (DfE, 2019) offers a huge opportunity in this regard. The framework sets out what ECTs are entitled to learn about and learn how to do when they start their careers. It underpins the new entitlement for two years of professional development designed to help ECTs develop their practice, knowledge and working habits.

Ahead of this first year of implementation, you will already have identified how you are going to ensure that this new entitlement is available to ECTs in the first year of their induction. You will have identified which local or national provider you are working with for the full induction programme – or in some instances, you will have decided to deliver the induction programme within your school or trust. If you have chosen the latter route, remember that the induction programme must have fidelity to the ECF.

What do leaders need to do now?

Check the quality of the statutory induction programme for ECTs in the first year of their induction: If you are working with a local or national provider of the statutory ECF training, make sure you talk to your ECTs to check their experience of the quality of the training. Consider building in feedback about the training that they are receiving at specific points over the year. This check-in could be undertaken by the mentors, with a feedback loop to you and the senior or executive team.

Consider how you will support the learning of ECTs in the second year of induction: All state-funded schools that currently have an ECT (formerly NQT) who was due to complete induction in the summer is eligible for a one-off payment of funding for the equivalent of an additional five per cent off-timetable for this academic year so these teachers have additional time to invest in their development. This off-timetable time is not statutory but it has been designed to be used flexibly so that as many new teachers as possible can benefit from this additional support. Time off timetable can be grouped together in different ways, for example, taken as whole days or half days off.

You will need to consider how your school or trust approaches this. How will you use the flexibility to support your ECTs in their second year, considering that their first year will have been heavily disrupted? You will have access to DfE-accredited development materials (see the ECF website, link below) based on the ECF to use during this time off timetable, but it is not compulsory to use these materials.

Support the development of your mentors and create the conditions for them to provide effective support to ECTs: We know that the role of the mentor is critical, specifically the mentor’s own expertise in teaching and how they break this down for a novice learner. This also includes setting the time aside to effectively mentor. In successful schools:

  • Regular meetings are enabled between the ECT and mentor.
  • The mentor has the expertise to diagnose the needs of the ECT and coach them.
  • The mentor’s role is valued, prioritised and supported.

Consider evidence-informed approaches to supporting ECTs, like instructional coaching: According to Steven Farndon at Ambition Institute (2019), instructional coaching has been shown to have a better evidence-base than other forms of CPD, particularly in terms of impact on student outcomes. Instructional coaching uses the principle of developing expertise through the use of deliberate practice. If you have not yet implemented instructional coaching in your school or trust, you may wish to consider whether this is something you want to explore this year.

Alongside the ECF, keep a focus on the wellbeing of your ECTs: The last 18 months have been an extraordinary time in our global history and this has taken its toll on pupils and teachers alike. For ECTs, much of their training may have been disrupted. As an employer, it is important to focus on the wellbeing of all staff, but perhaps pay particular attention to your ECTs. Taking the time to check how they are doing and feeling at various points in the year will pay dividends. Too many teachers drop out in the first five years of teaching – it makes a huge amount of sense to seek to retain these teachers by offering a simple and powerful personal contact.


This is the first year, following the pilot, of the national roll-out of the ECF reforms. As I said at the start, these reforms offer a huge opportunity to develop our teachers, support them and retain them. Let’s make sure we seize the opportunity to rethink our approach to professional development in these critical early years of teaching so that we become the best education system in the world at getting better.

  • Leora Cruddas is chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts and National Teacher Accreditation.

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