Early-career support

In order to inform the delivery of the Early Career Framework, EEF funded the delivery and evaluation of three pilot programmes, each using a different model for supporting mentoring and the development of Early Career Teachers (ECTs).

Programme A, delivered by Ambition Institute, provided face to face training to school mentors and induction leads, alongside a coaching guide, weekly online resources, and regular online coaching and support sessions. Programme B, also delivered by Ambition Institute, provided this training to mentors and school induction leads, but supplemented it with weekly online content and regular online support sessions delivered to ECTs. Programme C, delivered by the Chartered College of Teaching, provided a fully online model of training, where online support in the form of content, forums and webinars was provided to mentors, induction leads and ECTs. Across all three programmes, schools were expected to use the training to provide instructional coaching to develop ECTs. 

Each programme was delivered to teachers teaching a variety of different year groups, and subjects, spanning primary and secondary. 


Key stage


Cross curriculum


EEF Summary

As part of the Department for Education’s Teacher Recruitment and Retention strategy, the Early Career Framework (ECF) will be rolled out nationally from September 2021. The framework will provide additional support to Early Career Teachers (ECTs) during their first two years of teaching, which includes training, materials and a dedicated mentor who will support ECTs to develop. EEF, therefore, funded the evaluation of three ECF pilot programmes, each delivering only one year of support. The evaluation investigated the promise, feasibility and scalability of the programmes, in order to inform the future delivery of the framework.

All three programmes use instructional coaching, a form of professional development which is supported by an emerging body of evidence, derived mainly from the US. Instructional coaching uses expert teachers to deliver one-to-one, recurring, sustained, classroom-practice focused sessions, which use observation and feedback cycles and encourage teachers to engage in the deliberate practice of specific skills. However, there is a lack of evidence on the use of instructional coaching in an English schools context.

The pilot evaluation was designed to run from June 2019-July 2020. However, both delivery and evaluation were modified due to the COVID-19 outbreak and this report covers the initial set-up period until February 2020. This means that we only saw the very early stages of these programmes, which limits the evaluation and its findings.

With these limitations in mind, the pilot evaluation suggests that all three programmes show some evidence of promise. In particular, the online materials provided by Ambition and the Chartered College of Teaching, and subsequent coaching sessions delivered in schools, were perceived to be high quality and impactful by participants. The face-to-face training for mentors provided by Programmes A and B was highly regarded, as were the online preparatory modules offered in Programme C. Participants did report that resources and content could have better targeted some ECTs’ needs. When comparing Programmes A and B, B may demonstrate more promise as it affords more autonomy to ECTs.

A key challenge to the feasibility of the approaches was insufficient time. Both ECTs and mentors perceived this to be a challenge, but it was most acutely felt by mentors. Across all programmes, it appears that the majority of mentors were not able to accommodate the programmes with their existing workloads. This may become easier as schools are provided with funding to cover mentors time when the ECF is rolled out. Careful thought is also required to consider how the ECF is integrated with or replaces existing induction procedures in schools, so that workload does not increase and ECTs are provided with the information and training required to develop.

Given the large amount of online delivery, these programmes are scalable. Some of the online methods used were poorly perceived (such as Ambition’s online ECT Sense Making Clinics, and the Chartered College of Teaching’s online discussion forum) so may require adaptation.

The EEF will continue to support the implementation and evaluation of the Early Career Framework. We are interested in future evaluations of instructional coaching approaches. 

Research Results




Is there evidence to support the theory of change?


All three programmes showed some evidence of promise. In the case of Ambition Institute’s programmes, online materials and subsequent instructional coaching sessions were perceived to be high quality and impactful. Mentors’ training was also highly regarded. Particular promise was noted for Programme B as it afforded ECTs more autonomy. Elements of the Chartered College of Teaching’s programme also showed promise with respondents perceiving the online resources and associated observations and coaching sessions as being high quality and impactful. There were also limitations across all three programmes. Participants frequently reported that resources and content lacked flexibility and were not able to address the individual needs and development priorities of ECTs. Other specific delivery methods were also poorly perceived.

Were the pilot programmes feasible?


A key challenge identified by participants in all three programmes was the workload associated with them. This was a barrier faced by ECTs, but was an even greater challenge for mentors, contributing to low levels of attendance in online sessions and, in some cases, contributing to reduced engagement with the programmes. A related challenge was the presence of existing induction programmes and processes in schools. The additional workload associated with these undermined the feasibility of delivering the pilots. Another central challenge was the inflexibility of the content sequencing, which may have prevented content being accessed when it is most needed. Aside from these general challenges, specific logistical barriers sometimes hampered engagement (such as timetabling issues, and impediments to accessing online resources).

Are the pilot programmes scalable?


The pilot programmes are replicable as each is a well-defined programme that could be delivered at scale through online platforms. Some of the specific online methods used by the programmes were not effective in the pilots, so careful adaptation may be required. The programmes each rely on local contextualization of the content by mentors, and support for this might be developed further. Because the feasibility of each programme depends on the interaction of the programme with existing processes for supporting ECTs, at scale there is likely to be variation in how well the programmes meet local need. Whilst national policy changes may help, greater attention should be given to how the programmes integrate with or replace existing processes in different contexts. Although analysis of costs and time was challenging due to limited information around normal practice, we estimate that on the Ambition Institute pilot programmes, Induction Leads spent less than an hour, coaches just over an hour, and ECTs around one and a half hours on the programme each week. On the Chartered College of Teaching programme, Induction Leads, mentors, and ECTs each spent between an hour and one and a half hours on the programme each week.

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Start date

March 2019

End date

November 2020

Type of trial

Pilot Study

  1. Updated: 4th March, 2021

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-early-career-support.pdf

  2. Updated: 18th October, 2019


    714 KB pdf

  3. Updated: 5th November, 2020

    Pilot report

    2 MB pdf - ECT_Support_Pilot_Report_-_final.pdf

Full project description

In order to provide timely feedback in the development of policy and programmes around the rollout of the Early Career Framework (DfE, 2019a), three pilot programmes were developed to investigate the promise, feasibility, and scalability of differing models for developing Early Career Teachers (ECTs), mentors, and induction leads. Two programmes were developed by Ambition Institute and a third by the Chartered College of Teaching. All aimed to provide mentors with the resources to deliver instructional coaching sessions to ECTs, coaching that uses expert teachers to deliver recurring, classroom-practice focused sessions, using observation and targeted feedback to develop practice.

Programme A (Ambition Institute) provided face-to-face training, a coaching guide, weekly online resources, and regular online coaching and support sessions to in-school mentors. School induction leads also received face-to-face training, designed to enable them to support mentors. Mentors used the programme to deliver instructional coaching to ECTs, either weekly or fortnightly.

Programme B (Ambition Institute) provided the same training as Programme A to mentors and school induction leads. In addition, this programme also delivered weekly online content and regular online support sessions directly to ECTs. The programme was also used to enable in-school mentors to deliver weekly or fortnightly instructional coaching sessions to ECTs.

Programme C (Chartered College of Teaching) provided online support to mentors, school induction leads, and ECTs. All received a selection of online modules providing weekly content to mentors and ECTs that were used to facilitate either weekly or fortnightly instructional coaching sessions, delivered by mentors to ECTs.

The intention was not to undertake a comparative evaluation of these programmes but instead to evaluate the modes of support and delivery within them. Each programme was delivered to teachers teaching a variety of different year groups and subjects spanning primary and secondary education. Schools opted to receive one of these programmes. At the end of the evaluation there was a total of 98 schools across the pilot programmes: 50 primary schools, 45 secondary schools, and three all-through schools. The pilot evaluation was designed to run from June 2019 to July 2020. However, delivery and evaluation were modified due to the COVID-19 outbreak and this report covers the initial set-up period until February 2020. The pilot aimed to examine the evidence of promise, feasibility, and scalability of the programmes using a mixed methods approach using three waves of survey, 20 school case studies, online engagement data, observation of sessions, and evaluation of materials. Figure 1 provides a brief overview of the pilot study findings for all three programmes according to promise, feasibility, and scalability.