The Early Career Framework Reforms And What They Mean For You

From September 2021, reforms to the Early Careers Framework (ECF) will come into play as part of the government’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy. The reforms shake up the way in which teachers are supported in the early years of their career.

So, how prepared are schools for the changes? In a recent poll of 6,661 teachers for the Chartered College of Teaching, 75 per cent of respondents said they do not feel "well-informed" about the forthcoming ECF reforms.

Here we discuss what the Early Career Framework reforms will do and what they mean for schools, leaders, providers, and early career teachers.


What is the Early Career Framework?

The ECF provides standards to help early career teachers (ECTs), which will now replace the term NQT (newly qualified teacher) in education, to succeed at the start of their careers. The framework was designed to make sure ECTs focus on learning the essential skills that make the most difference in the classroom and their professional practice.

*Note ECT will now replace the term NQT (newly qualified teacher) in education


What are the Early Career Framework reforms?

The ECF reforms bring a step change in support for early career teachers, providing a funded entitlement to a structured 2-year package of high-quality professional development. The new framework is designed to help early career teachers develop their practice, knowledge and working habits.

It means that all new teachers will now receive development, support and training over two years rather than one, as well as benefiting from the support of a dedicated mentor during this time to facilitate the sharing of experience and best practice.


Where have the reforms stemmed from?

Schools continue to face significant challenges in recruiting and retaining enough teachers. Industry magazine Sec Ed last year reported that the retention rate of ECTs and RQTs (recently qualified teachers) continues to fall. At the same time, the number of pupils is increasing, which means schools need to attract even more people into the profession.

The reforms seek to address some of these issues - in particular to improve recruitment and retention, as well as deter newly qualified teachers from leaving the profession. The reforms aim to considerably improve the training and development opportunities available to ECTs.

The government’s drive to improve teacher quality also includes the introduction of a new Institute of Teaching to provide lifelong training and development for all teachers. It will be funded from the £22 million pot dedicated to improving teacher quality as part of the Spending Review, which also includes the funding of mentor time for ECTs, laid out in the ECF reforms.


What is the intended impact?

The ECF reforms are intended to help prevent ECTs leaving the profession by improving wellbeing and job satisfaction and helping to develop the skills, confidence and resilience they need to flourish in the classroom.

The programme standardises training and support for ECTs and should also make it easier for teachers to demonstrate that they have met Teachers’ Standards at the end of the induction period. The longer training period and mentorship provides an extended period for nurturing ECTs, which aims to set them in good stead for a long and lasting career.

In addition, the reforms will bring more modern education research to the forefront of early career teacher training.


How will schools deliver the reforms?

All schools offering a statutory induction will need to replace their current induction process. There are 3 approaches to enable delivery. These are:

  • a funded DfE-accredited provider-led programme
  • to deliver their own training using DfE-accredited materials and resources
  • to design and deliver their own ECF-based induction

All state funded schools offering statutory induction will receive additional funding to deliver the ECF reforms.


Who are the DfE accredited providers?

Six ECF providers have been accredited by the DfE to design and run a programme of face-to-face and online training to early career teachers and their mentors. The providers are:


What do I need to know/do as a school leader?

School leaders must decide which induction process will best suit their school. They will need to contact their local Teaching School Hub (TSH) and provide a link to the TSH contact details on

TSHs will be school-led centres of excellence for teacher and leadership training and development. A network of 87 TSHs will replace the former programme, which consisted of around 750 teaching schools.

The Teaching School Council is working with the DfE to provide a toolkit for TSHs to communicate effectively with schools about the ECF.

Schools can contact lead providers, or other known delivery partners, directly.

Before September 2021, schools should:

Successful implementation will rely on the following:

  • choosing the delivery that’s right for your school
  • appropriate selection of inspiring mentors
  • ensuring ECTs receive 10 per cent time off timetable (plus a further 5 per cent in their second year)
  • giving the right support to mentors

School leaders should, where possible, reduce the teaching load of ECTs to allow for a continued or extended induction period. In addition, to prepare, leaders should carry out a training needs analysis or skills audit of staff and ask ECTs at interview what additional support they might need.

School culture is also a vital component of a successful induction programme. Teachers are much more likely to thrive in an environment where there is a culture of openness, trust and respect, and where there are opportunities for peer collaboration.


What do I need to know/do as a provider?

Training providers will design and deliver a comprehensive programme of in-person and online training. Lead providers will be inspected by Ofsted.

Programmes are funded by the DfE, and will be paid directly to the provider, so there is no cost to schools. Funding mechanisms for the national roll-out of the ECF reforms can be found at: Early career framework reforms: overview.

Providers should read the Appropriate Bodies Guidance: induction and the early career framework, along with the Induction for early career teachers.

Accredited initial teacher training (ITT) providers must have regard to the mandatory guidance when carrying out their duties relating to ITT.


What do I need to know/do as an induction tutor/mentor?

If your school has decided to use a DfE-funded provider, you will need to set up your programme using the DfE’s online service. This service is for induction tutors who have been nominated by their school.

Haili Hughes has published a book, Mentoring in Schools, with Crown House, aligned to the Early Career Framework, which is another useful resource.


What do I need to know/do as an early career teacher?

The ECF was designed to make sure that ECTs focus on learning the things that make the most difference in the classroom and their professional practice. The reforms mean ECTs will be provided with more evidence-based training and development. Mentorship will be a central part of the training journey.

Students embarking on their initial teacher training (ITT) will benefit from the changes to school-based ITT. As well as an increase in support, ECTs will also have a reduced timetable for the full two years, allowing additional time for mentor meetings, training sessions or observations. Statutory Guidance regarding the induction of ECTs can be found here.

Teacher development will focus on the following key areas:

  • Behaviour management
  • Pedagogy (the theory and practice of teaching)
  • Curriculum
  • Assessment
  • Professional behaviours

Trainee teachers will have two formal assessments: one at the end of each induction year, supported by informal progress reviews in each term. The 2-year induction will have no adverse impact upon ECT pay progression or career opportunities.


Further information


The School Workforce Handbook shares best practice from practitioners, researchers and sector leaders to ensure you can improve the training, recruitment and retention of all staff in your school.

School Workforce Handbook


You can also learn more about preparing for the reforms in our exclusive webinar with Ian Bauckham CBE.