The OECD report; Teachers Matter: Attracting, developing and retaining Effective Teachers summarises that great teachers are the ‘single most important school variable influencing student achievement’ but that ‘the teacher characteristics that are harder to measure, but can be vital to student learning.’ If you are reading this, the chances are that you are a passionate teacher who is interested in developing new teachers so that they can be great teachers too. To me, that is all we need right now. If we wait for perfect guidance that will lead to perfect outcomes then we will never achieve this – we have to create a culture of non-punitive support for our new teachers. As passionate experts in schools, we need to be setting out to achieve the goal of developing great teachers every time we go into the workplace by modelling, coaching, motivating and inspiring through our words and actions both in and out of the classroom.
The Early Careers Framework has an enhanced focus on training mentors to support new teachers more effectively. As an NQT appropriate body, I welcome this and I am excited by the emphasis on preparing mentors to be more effective in their role I believe this is an important aspect of teacher development that has been overlooked and undervalued in the training process. In a recent meeting with other appropriate bodies and ITT leaders it was noted that a large proportion of experienced mentors had not received formal training, nor were they aware of the National Standards for ITT and this lack of expectation around the quality of mentors is inevitably having an impact on the success (and therefore recruitment and retention) of new teachers.
However, these changes will not be embedded for some time and there are varying opinions about the depth of commitment to the . In the meantime, we have cohorts of enthusiastic, ready and potentially brilliant ITT students and NQTs in our schools and the question is what do we do for those teachers now?
Rebecca Tickell states in the CollectivED document Advancing Mentoring Practices 2018-19 that: ‘It is important to note there is much debate as to whether the process of learning for children and adults actually differs at all, with attempts to codify learning in this way considered by some to be futile. In my mind there is scant evidence available to support that there is a real and tangible difference…’ If this is the case, and adults do learn in similar ways to children, then our early career teachers are surrounded by those that are fully qualified to enhance their learning journey and build their professional capacity.
My appeal to all established professionals working with early career teachers is to not wait for the Framework to be formalised but to start mentoring now. Let every professional conversation be about building these ‘teachers in progress’ to be excellent qualified teachers by focusing on a culture of mentoring and support.