The Department for Education’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy marks a fork in the road; we may look back and see its development, more specifically the Early Career Framework, as one of the most significant turning points of the decade.
The potential to move from a low trust, high accountability, confused and variable autonomy system to a high trust, informed teacher agency, school improvement system is genuinely there. The four major tenets of the strategy are identified alongside their respective barriers; the Early Career Framework is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown:
When Headteachers’ Roundtable responded to the original consultation we were very clear; without the funding to make this happen – paying for the additional release time for recently qualified (Year 2) teachers, time for their mentors and funding for the training of mentors – it simply wouldn’t happen. There has been a £130 million per annum secured and promised in writing; my back of a fag packet calculation suggests that the Early Careers Framework is indeed fully funded. A massive barrier has been removed; a huge enabler and opportunity is in place.
The time, effort and patience of whomever in the Department for Education led this has been rewarded: a coherent Early Career framework, sign off by the Education Endowment Foundation for the evidence base, sign off by the main teaching and leadership unions/professional associations and the backing of the Chartered College of Teaching and National Governance Association will be key to making the framework a reality. There will be work needed around the implementation, for sure; this makes the twelve month trial in four areas – North East, Bradford, Doncaster and Manchester – all the more important. Lessons learnt will be fed into the full roll out in 2021; getting the framework right is more important than rushing it in. It has the feel of a well thought through process rather than a quick win political imperative.
The strategy document addresses the current confusing application process into Initial Teacher Training with a one stop shop to apply to providers. It also introduces the prospect of specialist National Professional Qualifications. These are intended to appeal to more experienced teachers, whether they wish to move into leadership positions of not. From initial teacher training to expert status and classroom mastery; there are reasons to be optimistic about what is being proposed.
The strategy (full copy available here) gives hope that Initial Teacher Training will be reviewed in the future. A three year initial and early careers programme will help us look like the professionals we undoubtedly are and be a great way to bring people into teaching. There are enhanced incentives for teachers who work in the more challenging schools/areas of the country. A much more sensible approach compared to the “we’ll bus them in” myth of school improvement.
Other aspects of the strategy I’ll watch with interest; will the job share website retain more teachers in the profession overall compared to replacing the reduction in teachers going part-time creates? The promise of limited change, a period of stability, feels rather uncomfortable given a new Ofsted Framework is due to be imposed on schools in September 2019. The juxtaposition of a high stakes judgmental accountability system compared to a low stakes formative professional development improvement system is likely to prove problematic. The former tends to trump the latter. However, if we do see an increasing move to a focus on the curriculum through related high quality professional development – evidence informed approaches with the evidence base updated and reviewed – we may just be turning a corner to view a whole new horizon as opposed to a dead end.
A new decade awaits; as yet untouched and there for us to create a truly high performing and hugely valued school system. It feels like a bit of a 9 out of 10 day!