Effective mentoring is a key part of the English Government’s plans to improve early career teaching through the Early Career Framework.

However, there have been concerns expressed about whether there are sufficient mentors available – especially in the right subjects and the right areas of the country - to match the large number of incoming early career teachers. For example the chair of the Government’s teacher training review, Ian Bauckham, told the TES that mentors should ideally be experienced, commenting ‘it's not necessarily… the right role for somebody who is themselves in a very early stage of their teaching career’.

Our review of the pilot programmes for the ECF found found other challenges for mentors – including the need for high quality training themselves, access to high quality teaching material, and enough time away from their own teaching to spend with mentors.

Getting mentoring right will mean schools are more likely to retain teachers through their early years in the classroom, but also that these teachers will be effective and improve student performance. So, what can schools do to ensure this? Here are four ideas...

1. Tap into the experience offered by former teachers

There are many trained and experienced teachers who are no longer in the classroom. In 2016 for example, 40,000 teachers left the profession in England alone.

While it has been suggested that they could return to school and help with ‘catch-up’ programmes, supporting early career teachers might be more suitable for some former teachers, especially those who held more senior positions and were used to mentoring.

2. Create full-time mentors to work across trusts and local authorities

Adding mentoring onto a ‘day job’ as a teacher or middle leader can be a challenge, and this will be greater with the move to a more intense programme under the ECF. One alternative that some trusts and local authorities have already been using successfully is to make mentoring a full-time role – either for a fixed term secondment or as a permanent position.

These mentors would be able to focus intently on mentoring – and as trusts grow in size these mentors could then form supportive teams to share best practice and innovate further.

3. Capture more lessons on video

Research shows that using lesson observation as part of an ongoing supportive programme has a ‘large’ effect on teacher performance. However, mentors may not have the time or space in their timetable to watch more than the occasional lesson by an early career teacher and instead rely on the assumptions made by the teacher when offering advice.

Discreet video lesson capture such as ONVU Learning also has the advantage of removing the distractions of having other teachers in the room, as well as allowing teachers to quickly select and share clips from one or multiple lessons.

4. Use remote mentoring

Combining the suggestions above will provide schools with many experienced and effective mentors who can really make a difference to early career teachers. The only downside is that the mentors may not be in the same school as their mentees, but this can be easily overcome by remote mentoring – which in itself could offer further benefits as mentors can develop faster and learn more themselves by mentoring more trainee teachers!

At ONVU Learning we’ve demonstrated how this can be successful when mentors have an initial face-to-face meeting followed by the remote support, and even when the mentor and mentee cannot meet at all due to being located in different continents!


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The School of the Future Guide is aimed at helping school leaders and teachers make informed choices when designing the learning environments of the future using existing and upcoming technologies, as they seek to prepare children for the rest of the 21st century – the result is a more efficient and competitive school.

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