Education Endowment Foundation:Mentoring for Early Career Chemistry Teachers

Mentoring for Early Career Chemistry Teachers

Royal Society of Chemistry
Implementation cost 
Evidence strengthNot given for this trial
Impact (months)Not given for this trial
Project info

Independent Evaluator

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The Mentoring for Early Career Chemistry Teachers programme mentoring programme for qualified chemistry teachers
Schools: 80 Grant: £99,044
Key Stage: 3, 4 Duration: 1 year(s) 11 month(s) Type of Trial: Pilot Study
Completed November 2020

Mentoring for Early Career Chemistry Teachers (MECCT) was a one-year mentoring intervention developed by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to improve early careers teachers’ (ECTs) retention by supporting them with their teaching.

The project evaluated in this pilot included the pairing of ECTs teaching at Key Stages 3 and 4 (with between one- and five-years’ teaching experience) with a subject-specialist mentor (with over five years’ experience). Mentors and mentees were advised to meet for a total of six times, for up to an hour, however, the frequency and format of delivery were flexible. The mentoring sessions, aimed at improving ECTs’ confidence, were designed to provide them with skills to better manage workload and stress, as well as expand their chemistry specific pedagogical knowledge

In addition to the mentoring sessions, ECTs also received additional support through an online forum and additional resources provided by the RSC.

This project was part of a co-funded round on science teacher retention with the Wellcome Trust. Research has shown that teachers who feel supported are less likely to leave the profession, and that mentoring is a popular way of addressing teacher efficacy, job satisfaction and workload. The pilot was funded to assess whether the programme had evidence of promise, was feasible and was ready to be trialled to test impact. The pilot evaluation found that the programme was feasible, with most ECTs reporting positive experiences. However, the level of flexibility in the delivery of the mentoring sessions resulted in many mentor and mentee pairings meeting fewer than six times in a year, with many sessions delivered remotely rather than face-to-face. This made it challenging to test the validity of the programme’s ability to achieve all of its intended aims.

Overall, the evaluation found that some participating ECTs felt more supported, reporting that their confidence, knowledge and pedagogical skills had increased. However, there was limited evidence to suggest the programme had improved ECTs’ ability to manage their workload. or influenced their intentions to stay in teaching.

The pilot evaluation suggested that some aspects of MECCT should be strengthened before it was ready for trial. Areas for improvement included more effective matching of mentors and mentees, ensuring mentors’ expertise meets mentees’ needs, and further engagement of schools to allow mentors to gain a deeper understanding of schools’ cultures. It was also suggested that more regular monitoring was needed to improve implementation and resulting impacts. This included monitoring the relationships between mentors and mentees, to both understand the nature of relationships and whether regular meetings were taking place

The EEF continues to be interested in approaches to supporting ECTs, and interventions that look to improve teacher retention more generally.


Is there evidence to support the theory of change?


The evaluation found that some participating ECTs reported increases in their confidence, knowledge, and pedagogical skills, and in feeling supported. However, there was limited evidence to suggest the programme had impacted on ECTs’ ability to manage their workload or their intentions to stay in teaching. Given the mixed findings of the evaluation, and the low fidelity of some of the key implementation measures (such as the number of meetings between ECTs and mentors), it is difficult to fully validate the Theory of Change developed by the RSC team.

Is the approach feasible to deliver?


The evaluation found that it was feasible to deliver the MECCT programme and most of the ECTs who participated in the programme were positive about their experiences. However, key aspects of the MECCT programme need to be strengthened. For example, the recruitment process for mentors and ECTs needs to be improved to enable more effective matching between mentors and mentees, perhaps with a longer lead-in time or an increased pool of mentors and ECTs.

Is the intervention ready for scaling up?


The MECCT intervention is not ready for trial and a number of formative suggestions have been made for how it could be improved. This includes more active monitoring of the relationships between ECTs and mentors and whether meetings are taking place.

In addition, more evidence should be gathered on the intervention’s potential, or otherwise, to address and impact on the key needs of ECTs- workload and stress – as a precursor to improving retention.