Commentary

Supporting early career teachers in England: making an impact on teaching practices

Nicola Gillard

The Accelerate Teaching Programme for early career teachers, launched in 2018 and funded by the Department for Education in England, has now come to a close. It's paved the way for Education Development Trust to provide future support to new teachers, including through the rollout of the Early Career Framework.

Our successful initiative provided hundreds of early career teachers with an evidence-informed professional development programme, helping them to quickly become more effective and efficient teaching professionals.

The programme, developed with expert teachers and teacher educators, and delivered in partnership with the Chartered College of Teaching, sought to support teachers in the first five years of their career, helping them to become more effective in the classroom, increase their confidence and improve student outcomes.

 

Accelerate’s evidence-informed approach

Education Development Trust is committed to developing programmes based on evidence of what works. We therefore used evidence-informed professional development models and drew on our vast experience of running CPD programmes for teachers in the UK and internationally to develop the Accelerate programme. It incorporated expert instructional coaching, deliberate practice and high-quality content, and participants received one-to-one specialist coaching, access to online modules, guided online conversations, and local workshops with other participants, creating online and local communities of practice.

“We are passionate about supporting, nurturing and developing teachers throughout their career journey. Sadly, our local area matches the national picture, with high numbers of early career teachers leaving the profession within five years of qualifying. Our ethos and determination to support and develop early career teachers align perfectly with Accelerate and we were very confident that the blended approach to learning supported by our expert coaches would have the maximum benefit and impact on our participants.”

Alistair Crawford, Accelerate hub lead, Derby Teaching School Alliance

Relevant topics, with a flexible focus

Throughout the programme, we ensured that participants could access materials on the topics that were most relevant to them. Our online modules focused on topics which early career teachers tend to find the most challenging and need more support with, specifically around managing workload, assessment and feedback, managing behavior, resources and planning, supporting student with SEND, and cognitive science.

Expert coaching and deliberate practice

All participants had access to a trained subject- or phase-specific expert coach, with whom they worked over the course of the programme to systematically improve their teaching. Participants could record their practice using Iris Connect. They could then use this recording to inform deliberate practice, following reflection and collaboration with their coach. Participants were able to meet with their coaches both online and in face-to-face sessions and benefited from coach-led group workshops to further extend their knowledge.

“Working with my coach has helped me to really focus and improve my classroom practice. It’s been brilliant to work with an expert from outside of school who brings a fresh perspective and new ideas.”

Accelerate participant

Blended learning

We made use of blended learning to maximise impact. Research shows that we all learn better and more quickly through blended learning approaches. These multi-pronged strategies combine individual online learning and opportunities for online interaction with traditional in-person teaching methods.  Each module therefore began with face-to-face interaction to introduce key principles, before further information was released online, on the Accelerate Virtual Learning Environment. This self-study element of the blended learning approach gave participants an opportunity to deepen their understanding of each topic and allowed new teachers, under the guidance of a coach, to focus on the topics that they felt would benefit them most.

Local delivery

In order to best reach teachers at regional level, a network of 20 delivery hubs was established, drawn from teaching school alliances and multi-academy trusts across England. These hubs provided a recognised and trusted local delivery network, supplied instructional coaches and helped to facilitate local face-to-face training sessions.

Communities of practice

To enable interaction between peers on the programme, online communities of practice were set up. Teachers were thus given a structured way to share their experiences, plans and reflections with an online community of practice, and thereby deepen their learning. They were also able to meet and learn from each other in person at group workshops and regional events.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this…the opportunity to listen to such inspiring speakers and mix with so many other early career teachers has been amazing.”

Accelerate participant, Manchester residential event

 In-school support

Alongside the professional development for early career teachers, a training module was also developed for in-school mentors of newly qualified teachers and school leaders, to create in-school conditions for success. This complemented the participant modules, providing school case studies and ideas for the implementation of new teaching practices at school-level.

 

A quality experience with real impact on teaching practices

The Accelerate Programme has proven very effective in a short period of time. It sought to have a measurable impact on participants, schools, and pupils through improvements to teaching.

94% of participants who provided feedback felt that the training and support they received would have an immediate impact on their pupils’ learning. 

Feedback gathered over the course of the programme clearly demonstrates that participants received a high-quality experience which benefitted their teaching practice. Many new teachers commented that they were able to immediately employ their new skills in the classroom, with positive impacts on student outcomes.

Moreover, 92% felt that the programme had improved both their pedagogical knowledge and skills, and 87% believed that the content of the in-person workshops was either useful or very useful.

We are delighted with the positive impact of the Accelerate programme, and as we look ahead to the rollout of the Early Career Framework, we are confident that Education Development Trust can help even more new teachers to thrive. 

Early Career Professional Development Programme