Lack of time and capacity hampering early career teacher mentoring

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

A lack of time and capacity for the mentoring of new teachers is hampering the roll-out of the Early Career Framework (ECF) and threatening ITT placements.

The ECF, which came into force in September, increased the induction period for teachers in England to two years and includes guaranteed mentoring support and CPD.

It means that all ECTs going through induction must have an induction tutor and an induction mentor. The new role of induction mentor is a distinct role to that of the tutor. Mentors must offer mentoring sessions to provide targeted feedback and offer or source effective support, including subject or phase-specific coaching.

However, research from the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT) finds that 87.5 per cent of teacher educators feel that school mentors do not have sufficient time and capacity to support their early career teachers (ECTs) as per the ECF statutory induction guidance (DfE, 2021); 97 per cent of ITT providers are also concerned.

The research was unveiled by NASBTT executive director Emma Hollis during her address to the association’s annual conference, which is taking place online this week.

A further 93 per cent of respondents to the NASBTT research, which includes SCITTs, School Direct Lead Schools and Higher Education Institutions, reported that they do not expect the availability of mentoring within schools to improve within the next 12 to 18 months without any further intervention.

When asked about the barriers to providing sufficient mentoring time in schools, respondents blamed the new ECF requirements, but also other issues including Covid-related staff illness and absence, a lack of funding to pay for mentor release, and lack of appropriately skilled/trained staff.

Mentor training is available at no cost to schools but only via the provider-led ECF route (see SecEd, 2021). For the NASBTT survey respondents, this is not enough. They want to see an increase in funded mentor training, and “greater recognition from government that mentoring is fundamental to the success of the ECF”. Facilitating more release time for mentors from other school responsibilities was also identified as a way forward.

The survey asked respondents about ITT placements for trainees in the 2021/22 academic year. While the majority (71 per cent) said they currently have enough placements, 23 per cent of ITT providers do not. Of these, 89 per cent say this is due to mentoring time and capacity directly impacting on the ability of partner schools to take on trainee teachers for ITT placements.

Ms Hollis said: “This survey highlights the grave concerns about mentoring capacity that exists within schools and regrettably this is now having a direct impact on the availability of ITT placements in some teacher training provision.

“With the additional pressures placed on mentors and schools by the requirements of the ECF, the Core Content Framework and further demands being suggested in the ITT Market Review, we fundamentally do not believe that sufficient capacity currently exists within the system.

“An unintended consequence of these recommendations could be that schools are forced to cease involvement in ITT because they simply do not have sufficient capacity to provide the level of mentoring support that is required of them.”

Ms Hollis said additional funding would help “to back-fill mentor time” but added that “sustained investment” was needed to achieve the “level and intensity of mentoring support envisaged”.

The government has committed to the ECF providing 500,000 placements by the end of this Parliament, but Ms Hollis said that “achieving these levels of training will be extremely challenging for the sector without additional intervention”.

She continued: “This should include increasing funded mentor training, greater recognition from government that mentoring is fundamental to the success of the ECF and facilitating more release time from other school responsibilities. This latter point, while bigger than just ITT, is absolutely critical to support aims for high-quality mentor training programmes.”

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