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New Early Careers Framework Guidance: Time for a contracts review?


In March 2021 the DfE issued updated Statutory Guidance on Induction for early career teachers (England). The new rules relating to induction periods for NQTs (or ECTs under the new guidance) come into force on 1 September 2021. Please see below for a summary of the key changes and the recommended next steps.

These changes inevitably mean that you may need to prepare new fixed term contracts for ECTs, extending the induction period, or to issue variation letters to change existing terms and conditions of employment.

This time of the academic year is also a good time for schools, academy trusts and dioceses to start thinking about contracts in general for all staff, as well as workplace policies. The period 31 May 2021 to 31 August 2021 tends to be a natural recruitment cycle for schools, due to teacher notice periods. It is also a time when contracts are reviewed or new contracts introduced, as there is adequate time between now and the end of the academic year in which to consult with recognised trade unions on any proposed changes, so that they can be implemented in time for the new academic year.

Investing in contracts and policies that are up to date and legally compliant will provide you with the primary foundation for properly managing staff and dealing with staff/HR issues in a legally compliant way and in accordance with good practice.

Key Points from the new Guidance

  • The term early career teacher (ECT) replaces newly qualified teacher (NQT). You should adopt the new terminology from 1 September 2021 and amend your contractual documentation accordingly;
  • The standard length of induction has been increased from one school year (three school terms) to two school years (six school terms). As above, any fixed term contract should bear this in mind when determining the fixed term during which the contract will be in place;
  • In addition to the 10% timetable reduction that ECTs receive in their first year of induction, ECTs will now also receive a 5% timetable reduction in the second year of induction;
  • Early Career Framework (ECF) based training is expected to be embedded as a central aspect of induction; it is not an additional training programme. Schools are expected to deliver an induction period that is underpinned by the ECF;
  • Monitoring and support throughout induction should be sufficient that there are no surprises when an ECT reaches a formal assessment point.
  • Introduction of a mentor role to support the ECT for them to meet and discuss progress with regularly, in timetabled time. This is separate to the role of the induction tutor;
  • Two formal assessment points – midway through the induction period (end of term three) and at the end of the two-year period (end of term six). It is intended that these will be supported by regular informal progress reviews to monitor progress, to take place in each term where a formal assessment is not scheduled.
  • The number of ad-hoc absences permitted has been extended, in line with the extended length of induction

Transitional arrangements

The new rules will apply to ECTs who start their induction on or after 1 September 2021.

A transition period applies to ECTs who, on 1 September 2021, had started but not completed their induction. Those ECTs in this group will have until 1 September 2023 to complete induction under the old rules (within three terms).

Where possible schools should have regard to the amended statutory guidance in relation to ECTs who began their statutory induction before 1 September 2021, despite the transition period.  For example, the headteacher and the appropriate body will determine, having regard to what is most appropriate in the circumstances, whether the ECTs should have an ECF-based induction and mentor for the remainder of their one year induction when considering what proportion of the induction period remains to be served. It is important that a consistent approach is taken in this regard, to avoid potential complaints about less favourable treatment.


Teachers taking on the role of Mentors will require a review of their job specification and contract of employment as ECTs may require additional support not previously anticipated and significantly more support time than previously offered. From a contractual perspective, it may also be a change of duties/responsibilities.

The increased support required from mentors is likely to result in less teaching time for the mentor. Mentors may also require upskilling taking on additional training courses themselves to provide ongoing access to support to the ECTs during the increased induction period.


There are three approaches schools can choose from to enable the delivery of an ECF based induction. It is up to the headteacher to choose the approach that best suits the needs of their ECTs and mentors. The three approaches are:

  • A DfE funded provider led programme
  • Schools deliver their own training using DfE accredited materials and resources
  • Schools design and deliver their own two-year induction programme for ECTs based on the ECF.

The Teaching Schools Programme comes to a close at the end of August 2021 and teaching schools can no longer operate as appropriate bodies. Where a school currently accesses appropriate body services through a teaching school, they should contact the appropriate body they have chosen for providing services from September 2021.

Next steps

School leaders are encouraged to read the updated guidance ( and ensure they have taken all preparatory steps in advance of 1 September 2021, including updating contractual documentation where necessary. In particular we recommend reading Section 5 of the Guidance which sets out the roles and responsibilities of not only the ECT and mentor, but also headteachers, principals, governing bodies and appropriate bodies.

We also recommend speaking to existing NQTs (soon to be ECTs) to explain the transitional arrangements applicable to them.

Our Schools HR team can produce a variety of employment contracts, variation letters and policies for schools, dioceses and academy trusts, as well as strategic advice on these and other HR and employment law issues. For further information or guidance on the ECF or any other HR related matter please contact our Schools HR helpdesk on 0345 026 8690 or by email to .

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