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Case studies

We spoke to two primary headteachers about their schools' experience of the ECT Programme with Ambition Institute and the Julian Teaching School Hub.

School 1: St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School

About the school

St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School is a two form entry primary school based in central Norwich. The school recruited an Early Career Teacher (ECT) back in June 2021, who started induction in September 2021. They choose to use Ambition Institute’s full induction programme, and identified a classroom teacher to mentor the ECT.

We spoke to the Headteacher, Felicity Hope, about their experience of implementing the Early Career Framework reforms.

How did you enable Mentor release time?

This was something we felt we had to prioritise. When we knew we would be employing an ECT, we built the mentor release time into the timetable using a Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) who leads the mentor’s lessons at times each week when observation and coaching of the ECT by the mentor takes place.

How is your mentor finding the workload?

Manageable, due to us implementing release time during the school day. This way of inducting ECTs is new to everyone, and it requires a mentor who is committed to the programme and understands its rationale. Our mentor is really enjoying their involvement, and I can see that it is really developing them professionally.

How have you found the quality of the study content for your Early Career Teacher?

The content is excellent, and represents much better support for ECTs than we could have offered on our own, or as a Trust. The amount of content per week is sensible. Occasionally the video clips are set in a secondary-phase context, however we understand that the ECF is cross-phase and that our mentor has the job of contextualising each week’s content.

What have been the main implementation challenges?

Although we built in mentor release time, mentor capacity has been tested due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our staffing. We have had to stick to our principles about the induction of our ECT being a priority for us as a school, i.e. avoiding using the mentor for cover. I'd even go as far as to say that when the HLTA was unable to cover due to her own illness, we bought in supply cover rather than forfeit the mentor/ECT sessions.

We’ve also needed to use the flexibility built into Ambition’s programme. For example, mentoring has taken place in most but not all school weeks to date.

A more minor challenge has been the online learning platform. While its content is excellent, our ECT and mentor both find that using the platform involves too many clicks/steps. We have appreciated the Julian TSH providing opportunities to feedback on this frustration, and look forward to further improvements as the programme continues to develop.

How has the programme influenced your future recruitment thinking? Are you still happy to employ ECTs?

Yes, we will definitely be open to employing ECTs going forwards. I can see that the programme is really moving on the practice of both our ECT and our mentor. Moreover, ideas and strategies from the Programme materials (ECT and mentor training) are benefiting the school more generally.

Would you use Ambition’s programme again or recommend it to others?

Definitely, with the caveat that mentor release time must be prioritised and protected by a school looking to implement the programme.

School 2: St Edmund's and St Benet's Catholic Primary Schools

About the schools 

St Benet’s and St Edmund’s are two catholic primary schools based in rural Suffolk. Both are small schools employing mixed age group teaching. They are part of the same Multi-Academy Trust and are federated, sharing the same senior leadership team. 

St Edmund’s recruited an Early Career Teacher (ECT) back in June 2021, who started induction in September 2021. St Benet’s recruited an ECT later on, who started induction in January 2022. They have chosen to use Ambition Institute’s full induction programme, and identified that their Assistant Headteacher was best placed to mentor both ECTs. 

We spoke to the Executive Headteacher, Sam Barlow, about their experience of implementing the Early Career Framework reforms. 

How did you enable mentor release time? 

We are using a senior leader who does not have a teaching commitment. Originally at St Edmund’s we had hoped to use an experienced teacher as mentor. However, while they have the relevant expertise to mentor, we felt that the cost of releasing them in a small school would be challenging. Additionally, we anticipated that this year would see the pandemic creating challenges with staffing absences. 

How is your mentor finding the workload? 

Our mentor is doing well with two ECTs assigned, however that is probably the maximum she can support alongside her leadership responsibilities. With the impact of the pandemic, I have chosen to cover lessons occasionally in order to protect the mentoring. 

How have you found the quality of the study content for your Early Career Teacher? 

The content aligns really well with our schools' Teaching and Learning model, and what we’d be delivering locally for CPD. It is also a very good fit for what our Trust’s expectations on CPD are. The content specifically on adaptive Teaching has been highly relevant this year in the context of the pandemic, and we can really see the impact of the ECTs’ learning on their classroom practice. 

Now that we are in the second term of the programme with one of the ECTs, on reflection we might have used the ‘strand selection’ tool, to give us the flexibility to start with the module on instruction. This is something we will keep in mind for the future. 

What have been the main implementation challenges? 

Staff absences due to the pandemic! This has really tested our resolve to implement the programme as set out in the documentation. We’ve treated induction of our ECTs as a priority for our schools: as mentioned above, as Executive Headteacher there was one occasion when absences were particularly bad where I opted to cover lessons in order to protect the mentoring process. 

There have been some teething problems with the online learning platform for the programme in terms of ease of use, which we are feeding back to Ambition as they seek to continuously improve this part of the offer. 

How has the programme influenced your future recruitment thinking? Are you still happy to employ ECTs? 

Yes, the framework is brilliant and a two-year programme of induction was sorely needed. We are keen to recruit ECTs in the future based on our experience of this year, however given the very small nature of our schools we’ll probably look to see out year 2 for our current crop of ECTs before looking to recruit any more. An alternative we would consider would be if our Trust could provide external capacity for the mentoring. 

Would you use Ambition’s programme again or recommend it to others? 

Yes, the content and design of the programme is excellent. The support from the Julian TSH has been excellent including strong communication of live training dates, helpful reminders and responsiveness to any queries we have had. 

School 3: Litcham School

About the school

Litcham School is a mixed all-through school located in the village of Litcham in Norfolk. It has 766 pupils aged 4–16. Litcham currently employs three ECTs: one full time who started induction in September, one part time who also started induction in September, and one full time who began in January. Each ECT has a mentor and the school has an Induction Coordinator overseeing the programme.

We spoke to Kate Atkins, the school’s Induction Coordinator, about their experience of implementing the Early Career Framework reforms.

How did you enable mentor release time?

We knew relatively well in advance that we would be employing ECTs, so we were able to build matching release times for the ECTs and their mentors into the timetable. Our primary phase ECT joined us after Christmas: their mentor works full time but doesn’t have a full time timetable so, again, it was relatively easy to build in. We do know that across smaller schools in our MAT, matching ECT and mentor release time has been more difficult and takes forward planning plus luck and flexibility. If needed, Heads of Department or senior staff may cover lessons. 

How are your mentors finding the workload?

Having multiple mentors supporting each other has been great. We hold regular mentor meetings with me as the Induction Coordinator and I take care of a lot of the paperwork and monitoring. The streamlining of processes for the new induction has helped. Having learning evidence on Steplab is useful, and structured mentor/ECT time makes evidence gathering easier.

How have you found the quality of the study content for your Early Career Teacher?

The content itself is the highlight of the programme – high quality, research driven, and straightforward. The mentors have found support and feedback from the Hub has been useful. It’s really great that under the new framework every ECT is getting the same provision, regardless of where they work.

What have been the main implementation challenges?

It was very intensive at the start just getting everybody onboarded via the DfE portal and MyAmbition

Covid has made the last few weeks in particular difficult – mentors and ECTs may be off at different times, or classes may be closed, so there’s less teaching to observe (although the online learning for the ECT can always continue).

How the programme has influenced your future recruitment thinking? Are you still happy to employ ECTs?

Absolutely, although smaller schools may wish for their current ECT to finish induction before recruiting another. I think in the future knowing that all new teachers are receiving the same induction will really help recruitment as we’ll be able to be confident of the quality of teaching we’ll be getting.

Would you use Ambition’s programme again or recommend it to others?

Yes I would recommend it, as long as they have the time and capacity. It’s not straightforward, but the content is high quality and, in the long term, beneficial to all involved. It’s not a ‘pick up and go’ programme, and you need to be realistic about the time and the training involved. But in the end it’s teachers working for teachers, and it provides equality of access to the best available evidence.