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The complete guide to life as an early career teacher

The Complete Guide to Life as an Early Career Teacher

Date posted : 12 January 2022

The transition from Initial Teacher Training to helming classrooms as an Early Career Teacher (formerly known as a newly qualified teacher, or NQT for short) is one of the most formative points of an educator’s life.

Your first ECT job will test the limits of everything you’ve learned on your training course. A newly qualified teacher can expect to cycle between elation, exhaustion, irritation and a profound sense of pride, often within the same morning. Yet these initial terms working in schools will imbue you with the core competencies – not to mention the grit – that will see you through the rest of your career in education. 

Education is one of the most popular pathways for those straight out of university, attracting 13.5% of all new graduates in one recent year. These thousands of new educators deserve useful advice on how to start their careers. Whether you’re just toying with the idea of going into teaching or are starting your job hunt after completing your ITT, we hope this guide to the ECT induction period will give you a clearer picture of what the first few years entail. 

1. What is the purpose of the ECT induction period?

What you learn in your early years as a teacher will shape the rest of your career. That’s why your first two years are the object of a policy project to give newly qualified teachers the best chance to develop their skills and learn on the job.

The Department for Education’s Early Career Framework (ECF) statutorily entitles NQTs to a raft of evidence-based support for professional development. This programme intends to build on the content of the Initial Teacher Training course and improve competency in five core areas:

  1. Behaviour management
  2. Pedagogy
  3. Curriculum
  4. Assessment
  5. Professional behaviours

Your ECT induction should give you a full grounding in both the practical and theoretical aspects of education. You can read more about why your induction period matters so much here.

2. Why has the induction period changed and what are the changes? 

In 2019, the DfE announced that the NQT induction framework was to be replaced by 2021 with an overhauled scheme called the Early Career Framework. Not only has the terminology changed, with NQTs now known as Early Career Teachers (ECTs), but the new framework contains some significant changes and additions to its precursor.

Most significantly, the induction period itself has been extended from one to two years in length. In the first year, ECTs will be entitled to a fully-funded 10% timetable reduction to allow them to complete their training and development obligations. The DfE will also fund and guarantee a 5% timetable reduction in the second year.

Schools can choose between three options for providing their training programmes. The first is to choose from one of six specially-selected providers, including Teaching Personnel’s partner company, Best Practice Network. The second is to use DfE-accredited materials to deliver training, while the third involves designing and delivering their own ECF-based induction programme from scratch. As an ECT, you will probably receive your training through the first of those options, which the DfE have highlighted as their expected default for most schools.

ECTs will now also receive the support of a dedicated mentor. This is a significant addition to the previous NQT framework. Your ECT mentor will be a qualified teacher who will provide advice, feedback and constructive critique in weekly meetings. They are there to put the strategies in place that will help you develop as a teacher.

Before you start applying for your first NQT job, it’s important to define what exactly you want out of it. No school is the same as another, and one school’s ethos might suit you less than another’s (not to mention logistical variables like relative distance and ease of commute). It will save you time to go into your job hunt with a sense of your priorities when it comes to considerations like the size of the school, its Ofsted rating and its guiding philosophy.

While the content of the previous NQT induction has been overhauled, the main routes for newly qualified teachers looking to find work remain unchanged.

Most job hunts will now begin online. A Google search for ‘ECT jobs near me’ might bring up a scattershot smattering of relevant listings. But to stand the best chance of finding a job that you’ll really love, you need to be more precise with where you look.

The DfE now offer their own free job-listing service for teachers, allowing jobseekers to filter by area, subject and role. Your local authority may also have its own dedicated job listing website with the latest vacancies at schools close to you.

A range of online jobsites cater exclusively to the education sector, like TES and Teaching Personnel’s listing boards. Even a cursory look at these destinations will present you with a swathe of different job listings.

The peak time for applications for teaching jobs runs from February to June. This is because 31st May is typically the final date on which current members of staff can hand in their notice if they want to leave their posts before September.

If you are reading this article during the summer and you are stuck without a job for September, you still have a range of options available for kickstarting your career in the near future. You can read through them all here.

Teaching Personnel has helped many thousands of new teachers find NQT jobs over the years.

We know how arduous it can be to apply to multiple schools at once. Tailoring your personal statement to each individual school is a prerequisite for success when applying directly. Yet doing this over and over again can be a wearying experience.

We also know all too well that a listing that seemed, on paper, like a new teacher’s dream can soon turn out to be a poor fit.

Our ECT Pool is designed to help early career teachers find the right jobs the first time round. Instead of tweaking multiple job applications, ECTs fill in one short application form outlining their educational and employment history.

Our specialist educational recruitment consultants then use these details to match teachers up to the schools that will suit them best. The process takes the hassle and risk out of the jobhunting process by ensuring that you are aligned with your eventual employer.

You can register to join the ECT Pool here

4. How do I apply for my first job as an early career teacher? 

Once you’ve settled on one or more jobs to go for, you should make yourself aware of the application process. Wherever you are applying to, this will be fairly similar.   

The first stage of your application will typically consist of two elements: an application form or CV and a personal statement.

Your application form will usually incorporate your personal details, educational history, teacher training and any other qualifications and employment history.

Your personal statement calls for a more personal and in-depth account of who you are, your experience and your vision as an educator. It’s your chance to sell yourself, outline your unique skillset and convince the school that they would be lucky to have you teaching in their classrooms.

Your personal statement should be laser-focused on the specifics of the job you’re applying to. As well as your own outlook on education as a newly qualified teacher, you need to be able to talk about what attracted you to the school itself and how your personal qualities and experience align with the role itself. Read our recent article on how to write a great ECT personal statement for an in-depth walkthrough of how to impress potential employers.

If your application form/CV and personal statement have caught the attention of a school’s hiring team, you’ll normally be asked to attend an interview. You should approach this interview seriously, taking care to arrive on time with some answers prepared in advance to common questions that you can adapt if needed, plus some questions of your own to ask towards the end.

If you pass your job interview, then the last stage of the process will be to clear an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. Once this has been completed satisfactorily and you have provided suitable referees, you will be presented with a formal offer of employment.

Before you start your search, check out our comprehensive guide to finding an ECT job.

Alternatively, Teaching Personnel’s ECT Pool will put your application in the hands of experienced educational recruitment consultants who know how best to promote you to schools near you.

All you have to do is fill out a single registration form, and our team will get to work finding you an NQT job you’ll love. It’s quick, it’s free and it will save you huge amounts of time. 

5. What will life look like as an ECT?

The first two years as a teacher are your chance to apply what you’ve learned in your Initial Teacher Training to a real classroom, full-time. You’ll be thrown in at the deep end, delivering lessons, grading pupils and working as a fully-fledged staff member of your school.

You’ll be busier than you’ve ever been before, and the number of new tasks might feel overwhelming at points. You’ll have to familiarise yourself with a seemingly endless cavalcade of names, whether they’re pupils’ or colleagues’. You’ll throw yourself from mentoring sessions to lessons, catching a few precious minutes here and there for a cup of tea in the staff room.

As hectic as it sounds, you’ll have a lot of fun. With so many things to learn every day, a newly qualified teacher doesn’t have the luxury of being bored.

You can read more about how to make the most of your first term as an early career teacher here

6. How will I be assessed during my ECT induction?

As a programme for learning and professional development, your ECT induction is a mixture of formative and summative elements. You will have the space to hit your stride as an educator and see what works. But you will also be expected to pass a number of assessment thresholds.

New teachers are required to pass two formal assessments, one at the end of their first induction year and then another at the end of their second. These assess whether you are meeting the official Teachers’ Standards of practice and conduct. They will normally be undertaken either by your headteacher or your induction tutor, who will use the results to decide whether to recommend to the Appropriate Body that you have met the standards required to pass your induction period.

You will also undergo numerous lesson observations during your induction period from a qualified teacher. These observations will be an important source of constructive feedback throughout your time as an ECT. They will contribute towards your tutor’s decision as to whether you have met Teachers’ Standards.

Newly qualified teachers are entitled to termly progress reviews with their induction tutor. These are not formal assessments and they do not count towards whether you pass your induction period. You will, however, be expected to provide evidence of your development as a teacher. These progress reviews will give you a regular and ongoing picture of where you stand as you make your way through your induction period.

Once you have served the full-time equivalent of six terms and your performance against the Teachers’ Standards has been approved by the appropriate body, you will have completed your ECT induction. 

7. How much will I be paid as an early career teacher?

Anybody starting out as an NQT will be glad to hear that the old cliché of teachers languishing in poverty bears no connection to reality anymore.

Early career teachers in 2022 can expect a relatively generous starting salary of £25,714 in England and £32,157 in Inner London. This represents a 5.5% increase on the pay rate for the 2019/20 academic year.

As part of the ECF, the government has pledged that the NQT salary will be increased to £30,000 across England.

For a more detailed rundown of pay scales, pensions, additional allowances and grants for early career teachers, read our article on NQTs’ salaries here

8. What support will I get during my ECT induction? 

The Early Career Framework was specifically designed to maximise the amount of support and development for educators at the start of their careers.

For teachers starting out in 2022, this support will come from a range of different directions. One of the ECF’s most significant new additions to the induction experience was the guarantee of a dedicated mentor figure, distinct from the ECT tutor.

Your mentor will play a more informal role in your working life than your tutor. They will play no part in your assessments. Instead, they are there to provide regular sessions of one-to-one counsel and guidance, and act as a point of contact for any difficulties you might have.

Your tutor will also play a very important role in your induction period. They hold responsibility for overseeing the assessment and review process.

As an early career teacher, you are also entitled to a 20% reduction in your teaching timetable in your first year to pursue development, planning, preparation and assessment opportunities. This represents every teacher’s statutory allowance of 10% PPA time, plus another 10% on top.

In your second year, you will receive a total 15% reduction in your timetable – your statutory 10% PPA time plus 5% extra.

You should use this time to pursue the training and development opportunities that will be provided by your school as part of the induction programme.

To find out even more about the avenues of support available for you as a newly qualified teacher, read our article on the subject here

9. What are the main alternative teaching routes for ECTs?

Most early career teachers will proceed down the standard pathway from completing their induction to working full time in mainstream education, often at the same school in which they spent their ECT period.

If this linear route doesn’t appeal, there are other directions you can go down after the end of your induction period that will be just as fulfilling.

Schools for children with special educational needs are always on the lookout for young, qualified educators. Adapting your teaching skills to a specialist setting is its own challenge, but for many of the long-term, committed staff at these schools, working in SEN education is their life’s calling.  

If you’re curious about pursuing this avenue yourself, you can discover more about the particulars of an SEN teacher’s role here.

More and more teachers today are looking for more flexible working schedules. If you feel that the current non-statutory guidance might still be too limiting, then it’s worth considering whether you might find the right balance through supply teaching. 

Working as a supply teacher will put you in charge of your own schedule with no loss to your earning power. Teaching in a variety of different settings each week will quickly develop your versatility as an educator. You will also get the chance to impress a range of local schools who might want to hear from you if you eventually do decide to go down the full-time route.

If this interests you, check out our guide for first-time supply teachers here.  

10. What happens if I do not pass my induction period? 

If the appropriate body has not judged you to have met the Teachers’ Standards at the end of your induction, you are not given a second chance to complete it, though you are given a right of appeal.

If you fail your induction period, you will not lose your QTS. However, your name will be retained on the Teaching Regulation Agency’s list of people who are not eligible to teach in state schools. 

Teaching Personnel can help you thrive as an early career teacher 

As the UK’s leading educational recruitment agency, we have decades of experience placing ECTs into their first jobs. Tens of thousands of teachers turn to us to every year for work, advice and career development opportunities.

We have built on our strong and enduring partnerships with thousands of schools throughout England and Wales to create the most efficient career-starter for newly qualified teachers.

Our ECT Pool gives new teachers the chance to appear to a large number of potential employers by filling out a single registration form. Our specialist recruitment consultants don’t just promote you far and wide; they use your details to select the vacancies at schools that will be right for you.

During the application process, we will provide you with the advice you need to really stand out to schools. You’ll receive practical tips on finessing your profile and personal statement, plus good interview techniques and more.

Once you’ve been placed in a job, you will have ongoing access to Teaching Personnel’s six packages of training and development materials, specially curated for ECTs. These are designed to complement and expand upon the other resources you will encounter in a typical ECT induction course.

Great teachers are the bedrock of a happy society. At Teaching Personnel, we are committed to giving every educator the best chances to develop their skills and start their career off successfully.

For all the employment and professional development opportunities you will need as a newly qualified teacher, join our ECT Pool today

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