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Mentors, Induction Tutors and Headteachers

   Information for Mentors

Mentors are the cornerstone of the support provided to ECTs. They lead the development of a teacher or number of teachers on the Early Career Teachers programme. Supported by our online platform, Steplab, mentors run weekly instructional coaching sessions to support ECTs to transfer their learning into changes to their classroom practice.

Mentors are responsible for the ECT(s) engaging with the programme, including the weekly self-study and attending the facilitated teacher clinics and conferences. Mentors need to support teachers, particularly in terms of contextualising and adapting content for the ECT’s own setting. Mentors on the Early Career Teachers Programme will not be responsible for assessment against the Teachers’ Standards during the induction period.

We’ve designed our programme to not only build on the best available evidence around supporting teachers to improve but to be flexible enough to work in your school context and to fit around other aspects of the mentor’s role. We know that teachers are busy and that this is especially true for mentors. The Department for Education stipulates that schools are expected to provide mentors with sufficient time to carry out their vital role.
Each week on the programme will follow the same pattern, reducing the number of things for mentors to think about and helping them and their ECT(s) get into productive habits. Each week, they will:

> DEVELOPMENTAL OBSERVATION: Spend a short time (10-15 minutes) carrying out a non-judgemental, developmental observation of their ECT. The purpose of this is to allow mentors to identify a bite-sized area of teaching practice, or ‘step’, to work on with their ECT.

> DEVELOPING ECT PRACTICE: Spend approximately 45 minutes working with their ECT to develop their practice. The first 20-30 minutes of this will be an instructional coaching meeting to practice and provide feedback based on the lesson observation.

Having sufficient time for mentors and teachers to meet is a key enabling condition to ensure the programme is effectively embedded in your context. Mentors should have 60 minutes of protected mentor time per week for working with their ECT. The induction tutor and headteacher need to ensure that this time is protected for both mentors and teachers.  

   Mentor Training

The role of the mentor is crucial in supporting ECTs. We know this is a demanding role, whether they are new to mentoring, or an experienced mentor new to the Early Career Framework or the instructional coaching approach. This means mentors deserve the best possible professional development, to help them keep getting better at their role.

Our Early Career Teachers programme has three facilitated elements for mentors:

• 2 x mentor conferences: in-person, one full day (6 hours).
• 3 x coaching on coaching: virtual or in person (1 hour each).
• 3 x mentor clinics: virtual or in person (1 hour each).

All schools receive funding linked to the time needed for these training sessions as part of the mentor induction funding.

We’ve used our expertise and knowledge from educational research of what makes high-quality professional development to provide mentors with the knowledge and skills they need, when they need them.  This begins with their own orientation and the first face-to-face mentor conference. These are designed to provide mentors with the knowledge of the programme as well as build on and refine the existing mentoring skills they have so that they can hit the ground running.

There is then a continuous programme of support and training throughout the year:

> Scaffolded and differentiated coaching steps which align to the curriculum the ECT is following which mentors can use and adapt for their ECTs.

> Access to all the ‘Study’ modules available to ECTs, allowing mentors to see exactly what their ECTs are learning in order to better target their instructional coaching sessions. This content is optional, but it is strongly recommended that mentors engage in this reading, so they can link the step they provide ECTs with the teacher’s prior knowledge.

> One-to-one ‘coaching on coaching’ sessions with an expert teacher educator, designed to provide them with feedback and support to further develop their skill in instructional coaching.

> Facilitated group sessions (‘mentor clinics’) to further develop their knowledge and skills in supporting teachers and to share successes and challenges with other mentors.

> Bite-sized online courses tailored to mentor needs. This content includes opportunities for mentors to deepen their understanding of areas such as deliberate practice and ECT assessment. Again, this content is designed to fit around mentors’ schedules, meaning they can access it as and when they need it.

   A week in the life of a mentor

Sian mentors Arif, an Early Career Teacher who teaches Year 1, in a two-form entry primary school. We join Sian in the Autumn term of the first year of Arif’s induction period. 

“My favourite aspect of the Early Career Teachers programme has been how it allows ECTs to have a real sense of continuous, incremental improvement. It’s really clear to both Arif and I that they are developing their practice each week and that this is having a positive impact on pupils’ learning.
The structure of the programme is key here, especially the combination of instructional coaching and the ECT self-study. Each week I watch a short segment of one of Arif’s lessons to decide on a really precise focus for the coaching session. We then meet for the one-to-one coaching session itself, where we always follow the same structure which makes it easier for both of us. I start by praising the progress I’ve seen, then I share the next step and we unpick why this is likely to improve pupil learning. Then I model a demonstration of exactly what the step will look like in class. Finally, I support Arif to practise the step several times, giving feedback to help them perfect it.
I have to be honest, at the start I was a little bit sceptical about the modelling and practice; I’ve been a mentor for several years and whilst I would do some modelling, it wasn’t always a major part of my practice. I also felt a little bit awkward about it. This first half term has totally changed my mind though – I can see how much easier it is for Arif to put new learning into practice compared to teachers I’ve worked with in the past. I think that the coaching is even helping me to become a better teacher too – I’ve had to think about what I do and why for some elements of my practice that I’ve not thought in detail about before.
I also really like how the coaching builds on the self-study content. The curriculum is really carefully sequenced so that it builds in complexity over time. I still have the flexibility to choose a next step that builds on Arif’s current practice, but the curriculum supports us both in two ways. Firstly, it helps me maintain a sustained focus (e.g. around giving clear instructions) for a period of time, rather than jumping around between ideas. Secondly, because I only set steps based on what Arif has studied so far, he has a better understanding of the purpose of the step and is more likely to use it in a way which benefits pupil learning, rather than just mimicking a technique.
I’m finding that as the term goes on, I’m becoming more efficient – at the start the instructional coaching took most of our mentor meetings, and it took me quite a bit of time to plan how to put the materials into my own school’s context. Now that we’ve both found our feet, we can often complete several cycles of practice and feedback in half an hour or less which frees up time for other aspects of mentoring such as pastoral support.”

   The Induction Tutor's role

The induction tutor is the member of staff within each school with overall responsibility for putting the Early Career Teachers programme into action. This will usually be a member of the senior leadership team. The induction turor drives engagement with our Early Career Teacher programme in their school, for both mentors and teachers.

Key to this role is supporting and protecting the new statutory entitlements of Early Career Teachers and their mentors in line with the Early Career Framework reforms and statutory guidance. The induction tutor will be responsible for monitoring engagement with the programme via the Steplab platform and liaising with the school’s delivery partner or directly with Ambition if belonging to central cohort.

Induction tutor responsibilities:

  • Champion: The in-school champion for Ambition’s Early Career Teacher programme and Early Career Framework.
  • Protect teachers’ and mentors’ entitlement: To protect these new statutory entitlements for early career teachers (as set out in the Early Career Framework).
  • Positive accountability: Ensuring that teachers and mentors are supported and held to account for their responsibilities
  • Evaluation and learning: To continually track and improve the implementation of the programme over time in their school using our engagement dashboards

   A week in the life of an induction tutor

Mandy is an induction tutor in a large secondary school. She oversees a team of five mentors and five ECTs. We join her in her first term in role.

“I’ve found it really satisfying to see how the mentors and teachers have progressed since the start of the year. Having worked closely with the SLT before the induction officially started, we ensured that mentors and teachers have time allocated within their timetable for the instructional coaching session and we are really starting to see the results from this protected time. Mentors and teachers are developing very positive working relationships and there is a great deal of trust which has developed, not just between mentor and teacher but also between me and the mentors.
Mentors are also sharing positive feedback around their ECTs and I then feed this back to SLT and heads of department, so that this positive feedback is reinforced with the ECTs. This has therefore started to have a positive impact on the school culture in general.
I really like how Steplab also enables me to look at the steps that mentors are setting as it can help me to support mentors and check in with them if things aren’t going as planned with the coaching sessions. Every week I have scheduled in a 30-minute check in with all the mentors, and we discuss any potential barriers they may be facing and share any examples of best practice when it comes to instructional coaching. “


Enabling conditions

In order for our Early Career Teachers programme to be successfully embedded within your school, there are several enabling conditions which are required and, as headteacher, you play an important role in supporting the induction tutor to have these conditions in place:

  • Time
    We know that time is a precious resource which is in short supply for everyone. The main vehicle of this programme is instructional coaching. Instructional coaching has the potential to have real impact on teachers but this is only going to happen if mentors and teachers have sufficient time allocated to be able to engage in this training. In accordance with the statutory guidance, teachers are required to receive a 10% reduction in their timetable in their first year and a 5% reduction in their second. This time off timetable should be used to specifically enable ECTs to undertake activities in their induction programme (DfE, 2021). It is also vital that the mentors have enough time to carry out their role effectively. On this programme, it is recommended that mentors have one hour off timetable, or equivalent, to support one ECT.
  • SLT and Head Support
    Having sufficient time allocated on teachers’ and mentors’ timetables is also reliant on support from the Senior Leadership team (SLT) and, ultimately, you, the headteacher. As headteacher, you have the agency to ensure that the induction tutor is supported amongst your SLT and the wider school body. By championing the programme and supporting the induction tutor to communicate the programme rationale and the benefits of the programme to staff, you are helping ensure that the induction tutor successfully embeds the programme within your school.
  • School Culture 
    Teachers thrive and perform better when working in supportive environments (Kraft and Papay, 2014). The school culture will have an impact on how the teachers and mentors view this programme. Having the support of SLT will help ensure that the programme is recognised as a priority within the school which, in turn, can help teachers and mentors see the value in the training and feel valued and supported within their school. For example, if SLT members communicate the great work which mentors are doing as part of their instructional coaching sessions, this will help the mentor feel valued in their role.
  • Mentor/ Teacher relationship
    A positive working relationship between mentor and teacher is essential in order for the training to be effective. Contracting at the start of the coaching relationship has been found to be helpful to both parties as it establishes the foundation of the working relationship. As headteacher, you can support the induction tutor to oversee and support both mentors and teachers to ensure that this relationship remains effective throughout the programme. This can result in both mentors and teachers feeling supported. 
  • Mentor mental model
    Mentors are the beating heart of the programme. It is important for mentors to have developed mental models of what expert teaching is and to develop their mental models of effective mentoring. Mentors need to take the learning from the programme, contextualise it for their teachers and support the teachers to apply the theory into practice. As headteacher, it is helpful for you to have a good understanding of the mentor role so that you can provide support to your induction tutor who will provide more in-depth support to mentors. Induction tutors support mentors to understand their role and the instructional coaching process, when needed.


Download the Headteacher Orientation document


Key Takeaways for Schools

  1. ‘NQT’ and term Newly Qualified Teacher is replaced by ‘ECT’ and Early Career Teacher 
  2. Induction period for ECTs is lengthened to two years 
  3. The Mentor role has been introduced, separate to the role of the Induction Tutor
  4. Funding ensures protected time for ECTs and Mentors to hold high-quality instructional coaching conversations 
  5. 10% timetable reduction in Year 1 for ECTs, plus a 5% timetable reduction in Year 2.