Mentoring is at its most powerful when it is built on positive personal relationships between novice teachers and those with more experience.
Professor Rachel Lofthouse in ‘Mentoring in Schools’ by Haili Hughes
We have all seen the statistics, that one in five new teachers leave the profession before they have even served two years in the classroom (Weale, 2019). Undoubtedly, teaching is a difficult job but how many of those practitioners may have stayed in the classroom if they had been given the support of a highly skilled mentor? Somebody who was given the time and training to support and nurture them through what can be one of the toughest times of their career. Now more than ever, in an uncertain educational landscape, where early career teachers are often working in isolation and education is rapidly changing, having supportive mentors and experienced colleagues to support can make a huge difference.
Mentor Scout (2020) describe a mentor as someone who is willing to use their time and expertise to develop and guide another person who may be less experienced than them. Mentors need to have certain qualities that can help their mentees to develop and flourish. While writing my book Mentoring in Schools (2021) I conducted a series of qualitative focus groups and interviews with over a hundred early career teachers about their experiences of being mentored during this crucial stage of their career. Many of them had enjoyed positive, professional relationships with their mentors and felt that this support had been instrumental in helping them develop. However, some of the participants felt they’d had negative experiences, where their mentors hadn’t supported them as much as they needed. Of course, nobody sets out to be a ‘bad’ mentor. Mentors are not paid for their vital role and they are often advice and experience rich and time poor. This is why the Early Career Framework (ECF) is one of the most exciting developments in education for many years, as it promises a quality of support and provision for all early career teachers that is sorely needed – particularly in the current pandemic.
The framework aims to improve the support package for new teachers by extending their funded training entitlement to a structured two-year package of high-quality professional development. As part of the government’s drive to recruit and retain teachers, the framework aims to increase the resources and improve the opportunities that are open to early career teachers by providing a comprehensive entitlement to what new teachers will need to learn about and how to learn about it during those first crucial years. In addition to the training materials and opportunities, new teachers will also be entitled to 5% of their time away from their classrooms to focus on their professional development, for which schools will receive funding. But perhaps most significant is the allocation of a dedicated mentor to advise, support and guide the new teacher, who will also receive training and professional development to complete their role successfully.
This is a huge change for mentors – but it is one that I feel they have been crying out for. The detailed guidance in the standards, coupled with the reading lists for the research which underpins the standards acts as a useful plan for mentors to follow when they are planning how best to support their mentee. This is where my book Mentoring in Schools will help as it transforms the standards into practical strategies and activities that mentors can use to ensure that they give the best guidance possible to new practitioners and help them on their journey to becoming an expert colleague themselves.
Haili Hughes’ book Mentoring in Schools, published by Crown House Publishing can be purchased on Amazon or direct from the publisher with a 30% discount + free UK postage using code SPRING30. Haili is also available for CPD bookings. (@HughesHaili / firstname.lastname@example.org).
Weale S (2019) Fifth of teachers plan to leave profession within two years. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/apr/16/fifth-of-teachers-plan-to-leave-profession-within-two-years (accessed 22 February 2021).