Category Archives: ECT

ECTs we have a problem (2)

In part 1 we considered the problems that ECTs were having with poor school support and also through the unnecessary choice by the school of inappropriate classes.

We also touched briefly on the Induction programme and the amount of material that is incorporated in this programme.

So here in part 2 let’s take things a step further and somewhat validate our thoughts on an OVERLOADED Induction programme and look to see if this is being borne out in schools?

Quite simply the answer is yes – and how do I know? ….I asked!

So it looks like “here we go again” with the DFEE producing something that is totally overloaded and unworkable and impractical in schools! But, I hear you ask, wasn’t this flagged in the early rollout – once again the DFEE appeared to ask for feedback and then ignore it (it’s not the 1st time this has happened). Apparently this problem of overload WAS highlighted in the early rollout.
“huge overload of unnecessary tasks. Mentor and ECT struggling with workload.”

So in order to gather more information I asked colleagues that I know, of their experiences with this…bear in mind that we are only 7 weeks into the term.

Here are some responses and let’s put it bluntly, they don’t make for good reading!

  • “Finding tasks for mentor and ECT an overload of unnecessary tasks unfortunately”
  • “I’m with xxxx (provider) but have lots of colleagues with other providers. It’s the same for them. All the providers had their content and activities approved by the DFE and the EEF. This is apparently what they wanted.”
  • “I’m exactly the same. Once again increase to my workload even though I’ve mentored nqts for years successfully! The expectations for are unrealistic!”
  • “Ridiculous time restraints, expectation, unrealistic, unreasonable and prescriptive.”

Now do remember that in all of this, not only are ECTs expected to complete all the training and self study but the Mentors and to some extent the Induction tutors also. This is of course IN ADDITION to the normal schoolwork preparation, marking and quite probably additional responsibilities for staff. In my opinion even as a standalone it’s ridiculous and unnecessary, but when you add this to the “normal” teaching workload you can see (but apparently the DFEE cannot) this its a complete overload and unmanageable.

The irony of the whole situation now created is that this Induction programme was designed with the purpose of supporting ECTs through the first 2 years of their teaching and was put in place to stem the exodus of new teachers. What this has done is to create a huge additional load on not only ECTs but also schools in general and Mentors and tutors in particular. This poorly thought out and structured programme could actually ADD to the exodus of new teachers rather than prevent.

Based on the past failures of the DFEE, and there have been many – it is the same approach. They come up with an idea to what they perceive as a problem and formulate a response. As always seems to be the case (again) they listen to advice given and then totally ignore it (yes this happens as I have had colleagues who have been on these advisory committees). What then happens is that a programme is introduced which very quickly reveals its flaws and failings and schools are expected to manage and struggle along as the DFEE make changes over time in response to their initial poorly constructed initiative!

Here’s some more thoughts from schools and unfortunately you can now see that schools are starting to think that perhaps they will avoid this situation in the future by NOT employing ECTs – should we be worried …yes!

  • All this will do is stop schools employing ECTs and put ECTs off teaching.
  • Supposed to help retain its going to do the opposite!
  • My feedback is that is a ridiculously onerous undertaking. So many training courses for already very experienced teachers to have to do. Schools are completely under prepared for it and sadly I don’t think we would think about an ECT again for a while. Increasing teacher workload massively!
  • We won’t be taking any ECTs next year
  • I have learnt how my grandmother can suck eggs and I’ve taken a lot of coals to Newcastle.

At this point I am at a bit of a loss as to what to recommend for both ECT colleagues and also schools. What should have been an opportunity to implement a great support programme for new teachers seems to have quickly become a millstone around both the necks of the ECT and also the schools.

In conclusion
In my day (which was a long time ago!) there was none of this. We were recommended to keep a diary and asked for help from colleagues when we needed it. At the end of the year you simply passed or failed. The introduction of the teaching standards for new teachers to complete was introduced later and outlined the basics of what needed to be mastered over the year. But this now seems to have spiralled out of all proportion and is actively working against what it was designed to achieve. (I won’t mention the commercial side of things as regards these “providers” whose interest is must be to make this as “involving and complex” as possible!)

So where do things go now….to be honest I don’t really know. No doubt the providers are already getting negative feedback or questions as to the viability of what is happening – but their hands are tied as things have been presented and signed off by the DFEE. If things run true to form the DFEE will then attempt to cobble changes together to be assimilated into the programme “in recognition of problems” but it will ultimately be passed down to the schools to sort things out. An increasingly downward spiral as the workload and pressure increases.

Time will tell unfortunately and I hope my gloomy analysis and predictions don’t materialise. If all else fails then (as we did) ask your colleagues for their help, support and advice on all matters relating to your teaching and classroom practice and between yourself and your mentor tick off all the boxes and carry on!


ECTs – we have a problem (1)

It’s a bit of a sobering thought really – we’re not even to 1/2 term and the so called, “well trialled” ECT induction programme is starting to creak and cause problems!

But let’s divert away from that for a second and look at a perennial problem – one that raises its head year after year and one that is certainly happening once again…and to be quite frank SHOULD NOT BE!

It’s the problem of schools / academies not being up to the job of having an ECT on their staff. Whether this is through poor management, laziness or simple incompetence – some schools are not up to the job!

Now if you’re in school management and you’re reading this and shaking your head then I am assuming that your school is handling this well and if thats the case then great news. But already – 7 weeks into the new academic year, there are ECTs who are struggling due to the mismanagement by their schools; and lets not soft soap this…are handing in their resignations!

The new ECT framework and induction programme was designed to support and guide ECTs through their first 2 years in the teaching profession. Brought in because of the 55% failure and quitting rate of new teachers in this time. The guidelines are designed to have training for Mentors, Induction tutors and indeed even higher overview levels.

In the documentation itself it states quite simply that schools should ensure that :

  • Mentors are carefully chosen for their professionalism and ability to guide, support and advise the ECT
  • The class chosen for the ECT must NOT be one with high levels of problems. Discipline is mentioned but of course schools should review the make up of any class and make a conscious decision as to whether, in all honesty, this is a good class for a newly qualified teacher to be given!

Even at this early stage of the new year I am hearing from ECTs who are struggling by the failure of the 2 areas above. WHY?
Its not difficult – a school has decided to appoint an ECT – so choose someone who is capable and competent to mentor them and give them a class which is a fair choice for them as a new teacher. HOW DIFFICULT CAN IT BE??

Without these 2 basics, and they are basics then ECTS as new teachers will struggle right from the start, feel, justifiably unsupported and slowly sink….and don’t get me started on unrealistic expectations from school SLTs!! As a result ECTs will leave – and that’s whats happening…and to be honest I don’t blame them!

So let’s move on to the second problem that is raising its head – the INDUCTION PROGRAMME.
As a brief overview; the DFEE has appointed 6 establishments / companies to set up and run core Induction programmes for ECTs. Now these companies are an option for schools to use or conversely Schools can set up and run their own but it has to meet the requirements of the DFEE programme – so I would doubt that many will!

Just because the content and scope of these programmes has been tested and ok’d by the DFEE doesn’t mean for one moment that they are any good or will be of any use (the DFEE has a track record spanning many many years of introducing what “seems to be a great idea” only for it to be totally useless) and it seems its very quickly becoming clear that these new Induction programmes are proving to be a total overload!

The above is from one of the “Providers” If you look carefully at the top of the pic you will see that this block 5 (ECT training) consists of 20 pages of the above type material and there are 12 blocks on differing topics!

At this point in my article you can kind of get where I am going with this – in fact the article is now becoming larger that I had expected hence the part 1 and next a part 2.

So I will delve further into this topic at another time and look at just how this overload problem is causing problems in itself for everyone concerned – schools and ECTs.

What a ridiculous state of affairs is becoming apparent – am I surprised…no; but I am extremely disappointed.


ECT Induction guidelines summary

The Government guidelines for Early Career Teachers was published in March 2021 and comes into force in September 2021.
So why was it introduced and what’s it all about?
The bottom line on this is in response to the alarming rate that teachers are leaving the profession within the first 2 years – currently standing at 55% this represents not only a huge number of skilled professionals but also a colossal waste of time and money for the individuals concerned and of course a loss to the profession.
Hence the notion of extending the Induction period to 2 years in order to “support” colleagues through this time and hopefully aid teacher retention. It also allows for a more structured approach to the induction period and does away with the previous potentially lax system that some schools were operating!

General stuff…

  • ECF framework based training is expected to be embedded as a central aspect of the Induction process and NOT as an additional training programme.
  • Overseen by the appropriate body it ensures that HT’s have put in place an Induction programme that is based on the ECF
  • The Induction programme lasts for 2 years (although can be shortened in some instances)
  • For ECT’s who started their NQT Induction pre Sept 2021 they have until 1st Sept 2023 to complete 3 terms required. If this is not done then they will have to complete what remains of the 2 years with ECF support.
  • Part time ECTs can reduce their Induction time if it is shown they have met the teachers standards. This would bring forward their final assessment point. This can only be done in agreement with the ECT and once 2 years have been covered (not equiv to 2 years)
  • An ECT has only 1 chance to complete their statutory Induction
  • The school should ensure that the ECT post is suitable for Induction. This will be agreed between the HT and appropriate body and includes ensuring that supervision and training meet the ECT needs

    Where an ECT has already completed part of their Induction in another institution, the headteacher/principal will contact the ECT’s previous appropriate body to obtain copies of any progress review records or assessment reports (including any interim assessments). This should establish how much induction time remains to be served and alert the new appropriate body to any concerns that have been raised about the ECT’s progress by previous employers.

What is a suitable post?

  • The school must have a competent (!) HT who is able to make a professional recommendation as regards an ECT performance against the teachers standards.
  • The post should have prior agreement with the appropriate body to quality assure the Induction process.
  • The post should provide the ECT with an ECF Induction programme
  • It should provide the opportunity for the necessary experience and support to enable the ECT to demonstrate satisfactory performance against the teachers standards.
  • The post should NOT make unreasonable demands on the ECT
  • Nor should it present the ECT on a day to day basis with disciplinary problems that are unreasonable for the setting
  • It should involve similar planning, teaching and assessment processes to the other staff in school.
  • Not involve additional non teaching responsibilities without provision for the appropriate preparation and support.
  • There should be the recommended reduced timetable used to specifically enable ECTs to undertake activities in the Induction programme
  • At registration the appropriate body should give the ECT a named contact with whom they can raise and concerns about the Induction programme that they are unable to resolve in school. (This person is not directly involved in monitoring, supporting the ECT or making decisions on Induction completion)
  • The appropriate body must be notified once an ECT has been appointed so that arrangements can be made for start of the process.

Appropriate bodies
From September 2021, regulations will provide that the appropriate body
function can be performed by the following bodies:
• Local authorities
• Teaching school hubs
• Other organisations which the Secretary of State has determined
may act in this role
Appropriate bodies have two key roles which will be described in the
Monitoring of support – appropriate bodies will
check that early career teachers are receiving their statutory
entitlements, and that regard is had to the statutory guidance.
provide ECF fidelity checks, ensuring schools are supported to
provide ECTs with an ECF-based induction. This new aspect of
the monitoring role is explained in more detail in Chapter 4.
Monitoring of assessment – appropriate bodies will make the final
decision as to whether the ECT has satisfactorily met the Teachers’
Standards based on the headteacher’s recommendation.

Monitoring of support and assessment during Induction

Suitable monitoring and support programmes must be in place for the ECT to meet their professional development needs and include –

  • Programmes of training that support the ECT in understanding and apply knowledge and skills set out in the ECF
  • Regular 1 : 1 mentored sessions
  • Support and guidance from designated Induction tutors
  • Observations of teaching with written feedback
  • progress reviews of the programme by the Induction tutor to set and review developmental targets against the standards
  • ECT to be able to observe other teachers


ECF based training is expected to be embedded as a central aspect of Induction and NOT an add on.
There are 3 ways a school can choose to provide the training

  • Funded provider – schools choose to work with providers accredited by the DFE (face to face and online) funded by the DFE
  • Schools deliver their own training using DFE materials
  • Schools design and deliver their own 2 year Induction programme based on the ECF
  • Appointments must be made for the positions of Induction tutor and also a mentor

Observation of teaching

  • To be carried out by the Induction tutor or another suitable person from inside or outside the school
  • Observations must be carried out at regular intervals (?)
  • Feedback should be provided promptly and be constructive, brief with a written record outlining identified development needs

Progress reviews

  • These should be carried out each term
  • They are to be informed by existing evidence of the ECTs teaching and have sufficient detail so that there is nothing unexpected for the ECT when it comes to the formal assessment.
  • A written record of each progress review should be retained and there must be a copy for the ECT. The records clearly stating wether the ECT is on track for a successful Induction…summarising collected evidence and stating agreed development targets. The objectives for the ECT should be reviewed and revised in relations to the Teachings standards and the need of the ECT
  • The Induction tutor should notify the appropriate body and ECT after each progress review. If the ECT is NOT making satisfactory progress they should outline the plan to be put in place to assist the ECT to get back on track

Formal Assessments

  • These happen in term 3 and term 6
  • All evidence must be drawn from ECT work as a teacher during Induction. There is no need for the ECT to create anything new.
  • Terms of assessment (final) will form the basis of the HTs recommendation on the Induction period.
  • Once assessment completed the ECT should add their comments. After signing, the ECT should get the original and a copy will be sent to the appropriate body within 10 days of the final meeting. This body will make the final judgement.
  • An ECT who fails Induction and does not appeal will be dismissed within 10 working days.


The above represents a summary of the main points and features of the statutory guidance and as such gives you an easy point of reference for the basics.
Of course if you do need to know more detail then you should refer to the full statutory guidance a copy of which can be found in the link below.

I have also written an article outlining the basics of the Early careers Framework and how that operates and the link can be seen below.


Early Careers Framework

A brief summary…

What is the Early Career Framework?

The early career framework (ECF) was designed to make sure Early Career Teachers focus on learning the things that make the most difference in the classroom and their professional practice.

ECF based training is expected to be embedded as a central aspect of Induction and NOT an add on.

There are 3 ways a school can choose to provide the training

  • Funded provider – schools choose to work with providers accredited by the DFE (face to face and online) funded by the DFE
  • Schools deliver their own training using DFE materials
  • Schools design and deliver their own 2 year Induction programme based on the ECF

The core induction programmes include high-quality development materials, underpinned by the ECF, which will support early career teachers to develop the essential knowledge and skills to set them up for a successful and fulfilling career in teaching.

Schools have an opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the ECF by using the core induction programmes published below or to follow the options listed above and make the decision as to whichever way best suits them and their early career teachers.

Take a look at the programmes outlined below and you will be able to see the sort of training that you should be expecting during your Induction year.

ECF core induction programme suppliers
The Department for Education has selected six expert teacher training providers who have each developed their own core induction programme based on the ECF:

  • Ambition Institute
  • Education Development Trust
  • Teach First
  • UCL Early Career Teacher Consortium
  • Best practice Network
  • Capita with the University of Birmingham

Each set of materials cover the five core areas of the ECF:

  • behaviour management
  • pedagogy
  • curriculum
  • assessment
  • professional behaviours

Although structured differently, each programme contains approximately the same amount of self-study material in terms of hours covered.

Schools can use or draw upon any of six core induction programmes published here in whichever way is most beneficial to them and their early career teachers.

You can read more about these suppliers on their own websites or in the course descriptions below.


Ambition Institute
This programme takes a recurring weekly approach to study, so teachers and the mentors supporting them can get into powerful routines for improvement. The programme is composed of three strands, each of which has a core focus: mainly Behaviour, Instruction, or Subject. Each week includes concise, accessible summaries of the evidence, with optional further reading, so teachers can gain understanding quickly. The materials also include helpful examples of good classroom practice.
View Ambition Institute programme

Education Development Trust
Created with schools, for schools, this programme is based on a deep understanding of the needs of ECTs and the busy colleagues who guide them. The focus throughout is on developing the ECT–Mentor relationship, and providing a powerful professional development opportunity for both parties. The 12 ‘blocks’ of learning take ECTs from foundational knowledge through to mastery, increasing in challenge and depth as the ECTs grow in experience, confidence and understanding. Building on the principles of instructional coaching, these materials are accessible, engaging and practical.
View Education Development Trust programme

Teach First
Each module in this programme has been broken down into weekly sessions to provide you with informed and bitesize information on best practice. Throughout the online study materials, you will be prompted to complete activities and reflect on your practice, considering what you are doing well and how you could improve.
View Teach First programme

UCL Early Career Teacher Consortium
This programme draws upon the theory and practice in the ECF to combine practical activity and inquiry. The programme targets both ‘practical fluency’ – the capacity to deploy a range of teacher practices confidently and skilfully – and the wider knowledge, experience and beliefs required to make use of these practices in real schools, with real pupils and with their outcomes in mind.
View UCL Early Career Teacher Consortium programme

Best Practice Network

Capita with the University of Birmingham

What happens now?

From September 2021, it will become a statutory requirement for all schools to offer all Early Career Teachers a 2-year induction based on the ECF.  Schools will be able to choose from three approaches to deliver an ECF-based induction to their early career teachers:

Full induction programme
A funded provider-led programme offering high-quality training for early career teachers and their mentors alongside the professional development materials.

Core induction programme
Schools can draw on the content of the high-quality core induction programmes to deliver their own early career teacher and mentor training

School-based programme
Schools design and deliver their own ECF-based induction programme.

This gives you a broad based overview of the role and function of the new Early Career Framework. But do check which system your school is using for your Induction Training.

Online interviews 2 – what actually happens?

As I am sure you have realised; the effect of Covid is that the nature of teaching interviews has changed completely.

However it is not just at the interview stage that this becomes apparent. The effect of lockdown means that there is now no opportunity to visit the school and the chances of speaking with someone at a senior level are very much reduced.

Getting information before applying
The usual sources still apply….
1. The school website
2. The School OFSTED report
3. Hopefully additional information given in the schools application pack
4. Parents newsletters or local newspaper reports.

In other words “dig around” for anything you can find – which means you can comment on it in your application or interview….always a good tip!

So what sort of format are online interviews?
Well the 1st thing to say is that your interview may well start before your interview. That sounds a little confusing but bear with me on this. Some schools are using online tours of the school and in many cases this is being guided by a member of the Senior management team. In the same way as previously….if you were invited to a 1:1 tour of the school, so you do need to be prepared because like it or not you now have to opportunity to make an impression (we are looking forward to receiving an application from this person) or to fail to shine!
If you have the opportunity to have an online tour then I would suggest you do your research before the tour and also have your questions ready…not too many and remember you will also be interacting and responding to what you are seeing and being shown.

The interviews themselves…..
Many thanks to colleagues for sending me their experiences of online interviews and I will simply list these below to give you an idea of what to expect. Some tasks can be sent to you unseen and have to be completed and returned within an hour.

  1. Maths or English planning – tailored to a specific year group and either on a given topic or for you to choose – usually highlights of lesson progression
  2. Medium term plan for a specific year group on a topic of your choice – to be presented to the interview panel
  3. Recording yourself reading a story and explaining how this would be used for 2 weeks english planning and also other curriculum links
  4. Present a powerpoint (requested previously) on a series of lessons and the teaching rationale on mental health week and or Covid
  5. Plan a week of lessons on a set topic
  6. Deliver a phonics lesson
  7. Presentation on set topic
  8. Send in the planning for a sequence of lessons you have taught previously (teaching practice) followed by the interview
  9. Record a video of yourself reading “to children”
  10. Respond to a piece of childrens work…marking and feedback
  11. Presentation on the features of “quality first teaching”
  12. Straight lesson plan

So there you have it….some examples of things that group colleagues have encountered.
The bottom line is that the school will have their own ideas on what they want you to do and what they are wanting to see and that you shouldn’t let anything phase you…be prepared and one of the advantages of online interviews is that you can use notes (as mentioned in article 1 these can be posted on the wall behind your computer to avoid looking down).

Please read this article in conjunction with article 1 to get a complete picture of how to approach this successfully.

I hope that this has been a help – Covid has changed the whole system of interviews and so of course we must adapt our way of preparing and responding to the interview themselves…but with the right preparation you can and will be successful.

Good luck

Online interviews – Get yourself prepared!

It’s been about a year since Covid reared it’s head and affected the lives of everyone!
Of course this not only affects our daily lives but also directly affects us in the context of job applications and interviews.

It is no longer the case that on seeing a school you like or one that sounds great you can ring up the school office and wander along for a “look around”, have the opportunity to ask a few questions and sort of size up the place. No – this is now not going to happen.

Likewise with interviews – the usual attended interview is no longer happening and it is the case that schools are setting up online interviews with candidates via such applications as Zoom, Google, Microsoft teams etc.

So how does this affect things and how do we need to change our approach?
Aside from stating the obvious – you won’t be going into the school either to look around before you apply or if your application is successful for the interview itself…..the thing that you can count on is that everything will be dealt with over the internet – so you better get prepared!

This means that you need to get things ready – here are 9 things to think about to make sure you’re fully prepared.

1. Test your technology
The minute you agree to an online interview, test your technology to ensure you’re set up for success.
Check your internet connectivity, and confirm that your camera and microphone are working properly. 
Also check that you can actually connect to the particular software that is being used for the interview, just in case you need to make any adjustments to your settings or install supporting software beforehand. 
On the day of your interview, test your equipment and internet connection again. The last thing you want is the embarrassment of not being able to connect at the crucial moment! 

2. Check your setting 
Find a room with optimal lighting, preferably near a window, and ideally with a blank wall behind you to guarantee that you’re the focal point of the conversation. Ensure that your surroundings are neat and tidy. 
Check that you won’t be shrouded in shadow or washed out by glare – the interviewer needs to be able to see you properly to establish any sort of rapport. 
Choose an area that is free from all noise distractions. 
And remember, if you were attending an interview in an office, you would turn your phone off. So ensure your phone is switched off or on silent! 

3. How should you dress?
Dressing the same way as you would for an in-person interview will put you in the right frame of mind. It will also avoid any embarrassment if you need to move mid-interview! 
This may be the first impression that the interviewer has of you, so it is imperative that they see you are taking the interview just as seriously as you would if you were sat in the same room as them. 

4. Research and plan ahead
Like any other interview, make sure that you have researched the School (website, newsletters possibly newspaper articles etc….you could browse the latest OFSTED but its not really for you to comment on this but it may be a basis for a question or two) and have prepared any questions you have for the school about your job / support etc. 
Print out a copy of your application form and personal statement and have it to hand, so you can refer to it if necessary.

5. Engage! 
You can’t firmly shake anyone’s hand nor is it as easy to show enthusiasm via video. But you can monitor your body language and remain engaged with the interview panel and especially the person asking a question. The main way to communicate confidence is to sit up straight, smile, and keep the camera at eye level. 
Looking at the camera, rather than your image on the screen will help you look as engaged as possible. 
And while you’ll want to keep your posture straight, leaning slightly forward towards the camera can help increase eye contact and allow the panel to get a better sense of your enthusiasm. 

6. Be yourself 
This could be the first time that you have ever conducted a video interview, but it’s important that the school gets a real sense of who you are. The panel will be looking to see that you are not only capable from a practical and educational perspective, but that you are also the right fit for their school. This can be challenging during an online interview because there is a physical disconnect. It’s harder to feel your enthusiasm through the screen, so make sure you’re expressive when talking and answering questions. 
Make sure you emphasise not only with your skills and experience, but also your own particular approaches and interpretations – in other words your personality. 

7. Address any technical gremlins
If you experience a technical glitch like a weak connection or interference, always ask the interviewer to repeat what they were saying or asking. 
If the problem continues, politely mention it and suggest that you reconnect – you don’t want to miss any crucial information, or let technical problems get in the way of giving your very best performance. 

8. Think practically 
• Your username – you may already have a username for personal video calls, but is it suitably professional?
• Notes – have any notes or documents you might need at your fingertips, ideally printed out and therefore easy to refer to. To avoid looking down at notes these could be placed on the wall or a board directly behind your camera or screen.
• Headphones – always advised as they tend to minimise feedback when on a video call 

9. Prepare!
It doesn’t matter what the interview format is,  preparation is still key!
Good interview preparation will also give you that all-important confidence that could really set you apart from other candidates. You will feel more in control and relaxed and confident that you can answer whatever is asked. From this strong foundation you will find that your personality and confident interactions will show through and will no doubt impress the panel.
 So there you go – advice on the practicalities of preparing for your online interview. In my next article I will pull together all the examples kindly submitted by colleagues that they experienced at their online interviews.


Sorting your class into ability groups.

If you mention ability groups to some schools and teachers they will throw their hands up in horror and tell you it is the worst thing ever!

Yet in many schools you will find ability groups that are spread across year groups and occasionally across key stages – so why this spread of opinion and just what is the approach to take?

Well let’s look at the basic premise:- ” Children need to have work set at an appropriate level which challenges, consolidates and reinforces their knowledge and skills.”

That’s it really – that’s the baseline from which you have to work with your class.

Now that’s all well and good but aren’t teachers then faced with a whole class of differing individual levels that need to be addressed – yes technically that’s the case. I once had a teacher come to see me in a panic because she was differentiating work in her class and was trying to accommodate 10 differentiated levels…the workload she had set herself was enormous and of course not sustainable.

Differentiation is, of course, a completely different topic and my article on this can be found through the search bar on this site. However it is enough to say that differentiation is NOT simply different levels of work!

So do I personally recommend ability groups in class – the broad based answer is YES I do and the qualification is… but only where appropriate -in other words only for some stuff!

In which areas can I use ability groups?
Let me give you a list:-
1. Guided Reading / comprehension
2. Spelling groups / dictionary work
3. English Grammar
4. Maths number (occasionally- you be the judge)

So how do I decide who goes where?
In one word – TEST
It’s as simple as that – you have to know the ability of the children to be able to group them together. Now this doesn’t mean that you start to carry out exhaustive diagnostic testing – no; a simple “start of the Autumn term” test will give you the basics from which to begin. From this starting point you can adjust the groups as and when the children progress, fall behind or you find that they have a better (or worse) ability than you initially thought. But before you start to panic; the actual movement of children is never very much, with your original test giving a pretty good result.
We are looking for 3 groups to cover the whole class.

Keep your test simple and quick
It’s simply a matter of concocting a test which has questions set at 3 levels. Let me give you an example:-
Spelling groups – which children go into each of 3 groups to take home and learn the class weekly spellings?
Conduct a spelling test of 21 questions taken from the previous years spelling list. Take 7 questions from each of 3 levels from the words. All children do the same test.
Correct answers decides the group:
0 – 7 ….Group 3
8 – 14…Group 2
15 – 21..Group 1
It’s as simple as that – there is your starting point.

Guided Reading – Choose 3 different passages with differing levels and pre judge the children’s ability (this could be based on their spelling levels or on previous teacher comments). Administer the comprehension and questions in the usual way and mark the results. Using your professional judgement as to whether each child completed the test satisfactorily or not then group the children into 3 ability groups.

Why just 3 groups? – because it’s manageable. Experience shows that this is the best number of groups to successfully manage within your classroom. Any more than this and not only does your workload increase significantly but your planning will start to fragment as will the results from the children – stick with 3. This is not to say that they are 3 equal groups; nor that the same children will be in the same groups (1,2,3) for everything. Some children may have more difficulty with maths than lets say comprehension. You will find that the spread of numbers will be heavy in group 2 as you would expect and less so in groups 1 and 3. However you now have your basis for setting work that is appropriate for the children in each group.

Why only certain subjects and areas within the curriculum?
Primary education is completely different from secondary in its approach and method. There are many areas of the curriculum where children can actively learn and respond at their own level and contribute not only individually but also in mixed ability group situations. These are represented in the majority of the foundation subjects but also in areas of the core – an example being “Speaking and listening” in English.

So there you have it – ability groups are an excellent method of targeting work to children’s ability and progress in various areas of the curriculum. Not only does it help focus your planning and guide your assessment but it provides the children with the appropriate levels of challenge and success that focus and encourage the children’s learning.

Support and training in your Induction Period – just how good should it be?

This applies right across your teaching training course and into your induction period- so it should be good….shouldn’t it?

There are many and varied ways to train to be a teacher – yet all should, in theory, prepare you to the same level of competence to enable you to begin your teaching career with confidence.

However a recent report has highlighted that those colleagues who follow the PGCE route into teaching seem to be at a disadvantage due to the amount and pace of work required to push everything into 1 year. This workload will be familiar to any colleagues reading who have followed this route – but worryingly it’s not the workload that is causing concern but the resultant knock on effect in a negative way, on the practical support and training that these students are receiving. In short many PGCE students do not feel that they are practically ready to start their teaching careers with confidence.

Now it’s not the remit of this article to look into the perceived failures of PGCE training. However if we broadly look at the picture we should expect to see that whatever training you receive it should equip you to both understand the practical requirements of teaching and also to have experience and support in applying these in the classroom. After all, its 1 thing to talk about this but quite another to actually do it!

As I have pointed out previously the ECT induction period is there for a purpose. There is a recognition that the transition from teacher training to actually being a teacher in school does need to be supported and managed. But the induction years are not meant to be “training years” as such – no that is the purpose and role of the University, college and the variety of teacher training establishments. Rather the purpose of the induction period is to assist, support and advise colleagues as they practically pull together all the strands into their professional classroom practice.

Teacher training establishments therefore should be providing the foundations and initial practical building blocks upon which the “induction period” can build and cement. (don’t you just love construction analogies!)

The Induction Period – The Induction tracker is a working document against which a newly qualified teacher and also their school can judge both achievements and progress as the induction progresses. Once completed the records will give a detailed report of the teachers achievements across the induction time and also document any training and support as well as mentor input that was given. As a document that is “running in the background” to a colleagues day to day teaching, it reflects progress in real time and can identify and report on any areas where input or support are needed and subsequently the resultant outcomes of that support. The detail and dated aspects of the tracker are especially useful on review by both the teacher and also the school.

Support and training:- The nature of support and training falls into 2 categories.

  1. Support and training that occurs as either part of the teacher training course or during the induction year process. This will either be part of the course undertaken in the training establishment (or could involve some forms of training courses at placement schools) Or Induction period training courses which may either be school based or be part of ongoing induction support run for all ECTs by Authorised bodies. It is recommended that ALL courses and dates are logged by colleagues as part of their developing CV.
  2. The second level of support that I am going to refer to occurs when an ECT is experiencing difficulties during their induction time and we will go into more detail on this below.

Induction Period support

It is imperative to an ECT that the school uses the Induction period standards document – this provides the basic attainment and assessment thresholds that need to be met during this time and is completed progressively by both the ECT and Mentor. It is also the basis from which any support programme is devised should an ECT be experiencing problems in any area. Schools and mentors MUST raise any problem as soon as possible to enable support to be introduced immediately and the following procedures should be followed. It is NOT acceptable for a problem to be left and then reported upon at the end of a term if that potential failure point has not been previously identified and supported. Procedures to be followed are shown below.

Induction year support :-

As you can see from the above, there is a very definite support process for colleagues who may be experiencing difficulties during the Induction year. However do remember that you are not expected to be “the finished article” at this time and the Induction year is designed specifically to enable your transition from training to classroom to be supported and guided – that’s why the structures are in place. Everything is based on the Induction standards documentation…that’s why it is so vital!

Support from the NEU

If you are involved in any part of this process then of course you have the support of your Union to advise and guide. I would recommend that you contact your union straight away and to keep them fully informed of the situation and how it is being managed. The National Education Union is the largest teaching union in the UK and has a wealth of experience in NQT support and is up to date with all the processes and procedures of the Induction year and can advise you accordingly. If you are not currently a member of the NEU but would like to join then the link is below.

The NEU is recommended by Primary Practice.

Your ECT Induction – what can you expect?

A Primary Practice / NEU support article

Your ECT Induction plunges you, as an Early Career teacher, into a world within which you may feel totally unprepared. Now this can, of course vary from individual to individual and does depend to some extent on the nature of your training – but the bottom line is that training to teach and the actual fact of being “the class teacher” are worlds apart!

So what can you expect as a baseline when you finally land your 1st teaching post?

Here’s my list of things that you should expect to be in place to enable your smooth transition into the world of teaching.

  • You should be registered with the Local Education Authority as an ECT
  • In line with this you should be given time by your school to attend training and information courses run by the an Authorised provider or via your school under supervision
  • Your LEA will have their own version of the induction Standards and these should be operational in your school
  • As an ECT you need to be given the support of an experienced mentor in school
  • You are entitled to NQT release time (10%) in addition to your PPA time
  • The above should also include professional development and support to build upon your initial teacher training.
  • Lastly but by no means least…you should expect your school leadership team to have “realistic expectations” from you with regards to your progress and development….sadly this is not always the case!

The NEU, Primary Practice and ECT support

Primary Practice are always here to help and it’s as simple as either posting on the group for colleague support or by messaging Primary Practice through the group for matters which you may not wish to share. In many cases problems or queries can be easily sorted, however there may be times when advice is recommended from the NEU and that is just where our collaboration begins.

By becoming a member of the National Education Union you have the support and advice of the largest teaching union in the UK. Whatever problems you may be encountering or questions you may have regarding your training or induction year then help is at hand and advisers are always happy to advise.

Your local branch/district can also provide help and advice. If you do not know the name/ telephone number of your rep or local branch/district secretary, or do not have a rep in your workplace see contact-us

You can also call the Adviceline on 0345 811 8111 or email for advice and support.

To join the NEU simply use the Primary Practice/ NEU link

A simple classroom management approach for a “young class.”

Classroom management strategies and behaviour management strategies run hand in hand across every aspect of your classroom and teaching. Together they form the foundations of everything you do.

We have looked at the principals behind both classroom management and behaviour management and then extended this to build, apply and implement our own working systems.

All classes are different – 

One size does not fit all – by that I mean that because you have successfully used a particular system with one class then it will follow that the same system will work for another.

However, the basic format and approach CAN be used – in other words YES you can start out by applying the same system you have used before but you should be prepared to modify and change this as the needs of your class require.

So why do I say this?

I was in a school recently and a member of staff came to me with a problem. She wasn’t having behavioural problems as such but had a class that were both chatty and very slow to settle when asked.

By combining her behaviour and classroom management strategies she had introduced a system that noted how long the class took to settle when asked and deducted this time from their playtimes or  lunchtimes. It was a system she had used with a previous class and the stopwatch was displayed on the interactive board.

The problem that she was having was with this year group it didn’t seem to be as effective and the class was having to stay in quite a lot!

Looking at the problem

If you have read my article on Chatty classes then you will see that this method is one (among many ) that I recommend as a good approach and in fact it was one that this colleague had used well in the past. So why wasn’t it working so well this time and how could we modify things to make it effective?

On investigation the teacher began to realise that it seemed to be the same children who were not settling or becoming quiet when asked – this of course means that in starting the stopwatch the rest of the class was, in effect, having to miss time BECAUSE of these individuals.

It also came to light (it was a Y3 class) that the class had a disrupted year last year with 3 teachers across the academic year….meaning 3 different approaches to teaching, expectations and of course discipline!

Basically …they were a YOUNG CLASS!

So what did we change?

There were 2 things that we had to consider…

  1. The stopwatch approach wasn’t working so we needed different
  2. We wanted to avoid the whole class being caught in the attitude of the few who were dragging their feet.

This is what we did

Having recognised that the class had a disrupted Y2 we decided to move back to a practical and visual  approach when the class were asked to settle or become quiet.

We used the simple technique of

  1. Asking for quiet
  2. Teacher putting their hands on their head – the children copy….5 seconds
  3. Teacher (without speaking) put their hands on their shoulders …5 seconds
  4. Teacher (without speaking) puts their hands down and the children either put their hands on their laps or on the desk.
  5. At this point…the whole class should be quiet (and the majority will be)
  6. However – This now allows the teacher to identify those children who are still talking or not settling down…in other words we have shifted the emphasis from a whole class to individuals.
  7. Any child not sitting quietly is now told to “stand up” – these can then be told that they have not listened or done what is expected and their names are then moved onto the behaviour management system or names / ticks etc on the board.

As you can now see the teacher has now moved to a visual and interactive stimulus for quieting the class. Even if some children do not hear the teacher ask for quiet they will see what is happening around them and know what it means. The approach also takes the stopwatch timing away from the whole  class and lands on the individuals concerned who as we have said previously “take responsibility for their own actions”

Conclusion.This was our solution to the problem that this colleague was experiencing. The basics of her approach were right but just needed modifying to suit the needs of that particular class. Once this was introduced the problem soon went away and things settled down nicely.

[This illustrates a very basic routine of movements that many of the children will already know. The actions are, of course, simply a 3 part visual system that involves the children and you could alter or change these as you wish. ]

Hope this may be of help – as it surfaced recently I thought I would pass it on.