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Research School Network: Walking the tightrope in high winds; mentoring, the ECF and COVID Dr Jo Pearson, Regional Lead for Oldham, Head of SCITT and Appropriate Body lead for Teamworks TSA


Walking the tightrope in high winds; mentoring, the ECF and COVID

Dr Jo Pearson, Regional Lead for Oldham, Head of SCITT and Appropriate Body lead for Teamworks TSA

Teaching is really hard. It’s like cycling across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope; do I need to adjust my speed/​direction? Am I in track to get there as planned? Did I choose the right bike? The first year as a solo tightrope walker’ is amongst the toughest. In the ITE phase there are always others to catch you, you aren’t very high but in your NQT year you are up there alone and we know that too many fall.

This is why the ECF matters; it puts a safety net under the fledgling teachers and most importantly by doing this, it helps pupils. Someone is helping their teacher manage, get better everyday, set off on their journey from wobbly walker to Charles Blondin. It recognised the deeply intellectual challenge that teaching brings and brings evidence right into the heart of school practice. It recognises that we all need a great teacher, it’s just that now we call you a mentor.

That doesn’t make the ECF easy, especially at the moment when it’s not just breezy on that tightrope it’s a positive hurricane and you are being blown about as a teacher never mind as a mentor. But then teaching children isn’t easy, neither is teaching adults but both really matter. Broad and balanced, planned for progression, supported by evidence, this is the curriculum intent of the ECF. But you know that is just the first step of teaching, all curricula need to be implemented well though to have any impact and this is why the most important role in the ECF is that of the mentor. You take the written curriculum and make it live just as you do in the classroom. You make it understandable and relatable for your NQT just as you do your pupils. You do this by starting from where they are, adjusting the pace and emphasis according to their needs, revisiting things they find hardest and adding the bits that matter for your school and setting.

The curriculum isn’t the examination system though. Your school curriculum prepares children for a life within and beyond education; the assessment system sits alongside this but it isn’t the curriculum. So if the ECF is the curriculum, the Standards are the summative external examination system. They are the proxy we use to capture the curriculum and help us make judgements and comparisons. As a mentor many of you are both teaching the curriculum of the ECF and then assessing the NQT against the standards, this can be difficult but it isn’t different. Your ECF curriculum and your sessions have the aim of making them a better teacher; the assessments that arrive each term help to see the impact of that curriculum and the ways in which the curriculum might be adjusted and personalised until the final assessment at the end of the NQT year.

The curriculum serves the assessment but they are not the same. Teach your NQT curriculum, then use the national assessment system to measure impact. Adjust, revisit, personalise, adapt.

The ECF is a scaffold not a straitjacket; make it your own.

Dr Jo Pearson, Regional Lead for Oldham, Head of SCITT and Appropriate Body lead for Teamworks TSA

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