Promoting Quality in Teacher Education

Letter from UCET CPD forum to DfE on ECF


A letter from the chair of UCET's CPD forum, Dr Paul Vare (University of Gloucester) to the DfE on the proposed Early Career Framework reforms representing members' concerns and reflections.

Early Career Framework Team
Department of Education

30th April 2021

Dear ECF Team

Re: ECF webinar presentation by DfE 28th April, 2021

Thank you for providing the presentation on the Early Career Framework (ECF) on 28th April.

A number of members of UCET’s CPD Forum attended the webinar; as CPD Chair, I have been asked to share their reflections with you.

Overall, members found the webinar informative and, despite some technical difficulties, were grateful for the opportunity to have further details of the ECF presented by the Department. That said, colleagues in schools and institutions who are anxious to be prepared for September had a number of pressing concerns that were not addressed adequately at the event.

We raise these issues in the spirit of ensuring that the Department is best placed to implement the ECF effectively in September:

  1. Impact on initial teacher education (ITE)

Under the ECF, specific financial incentives are offered to support mentoring of early career teachers (ECTs). While this is welcome, mentoring for trainee teachers remains embedded within ITE programmes. This will inevitably create conflicts where additional payments are made for ECT mentors who normally support ITE. Why is there not the same pattern of financial support within the Core Content Framework (CCF)? Arguably this is where mentoring is most essential. There is an opportunity here to build seamless support for the recruitment and retention of teachers throughout the three-year CCF-ECF journey. As currently configured, however, mentors will be pulled from ITE in schools that have ECTs, this will quickly result in far fewer placements being available for ITE.

  1. Communication to schools
    The ECF is still not widely known or understood; we are even aware of headteachers who are trying not to recruit NQTs/ECTs because of the perceived disruption this may bring. An unforeseen consequence of the level of communication not being right for schools will be a drop in employment figures for graduates from ITE programmes. This would be a huge loss given the enormous state investment in their training and at a time when teachers continue to leave the profession at a high rate. Clear and precise communication is required for all schools, ITE providers and those students who will be completing shortly so that they all have a solid understanding of ECF and how it works.

  2. Transferability for NCTs
    It is not clear what happens to ECTs if they have to move schools and find that the school they have moved to is with a different provider. Is there an expectation that all evidence and related paperwork will be in place and fully transferable?

  3. Existing NCTs and the two-year
    What are the expectations for current NCTs who are already in their first and second years of teaching?

  1. Special schools
    What are the expectation for special schools and the implications for those that wish to tailor their own route through the ECF requirements?

  1. The two-year probation period
    Little has been said about the statutory induction that accompanies the ECF. This is of particular concern to NCTs because it is widely perceived as subjecting them to two further years of scrutiny before they can feel secure in their jobs. Further complications arise if NCTs take one-year contracts and move to a different Awarding Body mid-way through induction (see also point 3 above). Indeed, some fear that their employment prospects may suffer if they have to move mid-way through their induction period. Are there plans to review the impact of the extended induction period?

  1. Impacts of the ‘closed shop’
    There are clear incentives (in terms of mentor funding and timescales for preparation) for schools to choose to work with one of the big six national ECF providers; meanwhile, excellent practitioners who may wish to design their own materials will receive no funding for their efforts. This is not a free market and there are concerns about the impacts of schools being tied to one of the six providers, particularly if they have different long-term visions of how the ECF could best serve their specific context.

  2. The Role of Higher Education Institutions
    The role of HEIs is hard to locate in the ECF and other reforms; this has serious implications for schools. Simply rolling out ‘what works’ is appealing in its simplicity but pays little heed to the complexity and changing nature of the context of schools, teachers and learners. By working collaboratively with schools, HEIs not only offer high quality teacher education (as recognised by DfE during the webinar and evidenced by the #TeachBest campaign), they generate new knowledge, embedded in practice, explore why things work and then share this globally for the benefit of all. Limiting the role of HEIs will put education in England at a huge disadvantage relative to our competitors, hence the need to confirm and clarify their role in relation to the ECF and wider reforms as a matter of urgency.

  3. Lastly, when will the link to the recorded presentation be available and where will this be located?

We share the Department’s concern for the supply of excellent teachers and ultimately for the well-being and achievement of all pupils. We do hope that you will address these concerns in the very near future, possibly though a more interactive presentation starting with the points above.

We appreciate that an intervention on the scale of ECF is a complex issue and we are keen to fully explore and understand its implications with the Department for the sake of all of our children and young people.

Yours faithfully

Dr Paul Vare
Chair UCET CPD Forum