England as Role Model? Really?!

Paul A. Kirschner & Mirjam Neelen

Have we gone mad? England[1] leading the way? England as a role model? To be honest, we wouldn’t be first in line to suggest that England (and for that matter the UK) leads the way in many ways, with their humour being one really great exception! Paul once even said that in his opinion (don’t shoot Mirjam for this), the most bought cookbook there was probably titled ‘1001 Ways to Ruin Good Food’. In addition to thoughts on typical English culinary expertise (is this an oxymoron?), were also not really enthusiastic about their tabloids, monarchy (with at least two strange princes: one who hangs out with dubious businessmen and one who has a butler to iron his shoelaces and squeeze toothpaste on his toothbrush), Brexit, etc. But this blog definitely isn’t the place to vent our thoughts about those national quirks.

England 1

However, one ‘domain’ outside of great English humour that’s raises our enthusiasm is England’s current view on education, and particularly their view on what effective teaching and teachers look like and what novice teachers need to become effective. Perhaps their approach to teachers who are new to the field can be an example for other countries. Our suggestion is to learn from and catch up to their approach to how to educate and then support newly qualified teachers as well as how to support schools to deliver better learning outcomes.

Paul recently visited London with a Flemish delegation that included Tim Surma for a two-day visit to Ofsted (the UK Office for Standards in Education), the Chartered College of Teaching (CCT), the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF; evidence-informed guides and Toolkits) and a research school in London city centre (Charles Dickens Primary School). Paul saw and heard many remarkable things during that visit that are worth discussing; however in this blog we limit ourselves to two.

The Early Career Framework

The first one is the Early Career Framework (ECF) from the English Department for Education. This framework, developed with the CCT and EEF (amongst others), is meant to support the professional development of novice (i.e., beginning) teachers. It’s a follow-up of the Initial Teacher Training Core Content Framework[2] (see our blog ‘Call to Arms’ on leveraging evidence-informed standards for teacher education). According to the authors, teachers form the foundation of our education system as there are no top schools without top teachers. We couldn’t agree more (also see our blog ‘What Makes a Top Teacher?’).

The authors of the Early Career Framework also emphasize that, although teachers deserve high quality professional development support throughout their career, additional support is required for the first years of teacher when the learning curve is steepest.

Here the opening paragraph of the report:

Teachers are the foundation of the education system – there are no great schools without great teachers. Teachers deserve high quality support throughout their careers, particularly in those first years of teaching when the learning curve is steepest. Just as with other esteemed professions like medicine and law, teachers in the first years of their career require high quality, structured support in order to begin the journey towards becoming an expert. During induction, it is essential that early career teachers are able to develop the knowledge, practices and working habits that set them up for a fulfilling and successful career in teaching. (p. 4)

However, according to the Framework teachers lack the support they need to flourish as well as the time for professional development. Therefore, the Early Career Framework – and now please pay close attention – supports a teacher entitlement of a fully financially supported professional development trajectory.

Yes, you read it correctly. The Framework talks about what beginning teachers are entitled to. It provides a fully sponsored, two-year package of structured training and support, which has been built on the best available evidence from learning and teaching research. For this purpose there’s no less than £130 million (around €155 million / $170 million) available every year. A note here: We have no idea whether the funding is sufficient (so please don’t attack us on this). For us, the important thing is that this package is structurally provided!

The support includes:

  • Funding and guaranteeing 5% off-timetable in the second year of teaching for all early career teachers; early career teachers will continue to have a 10% timetable reduction in their first year of induction.
  • Creating high quality, freely available ECF curricula and training materials;
  • Establishing full, high quality ECF training programmes;
  • Funding time for mentors to support early career teachers; and
  • Fully funded mentor training.

In addition to the Framework, we’d like to highlight a second noteworthy topic that Paul came across: the Toolkits developed by the Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF).

The EEF Toolkits

The Teaching and Learning- and Early Yearstoolkits are very accessible, high quality summaries of research on a variety of approaches. They’re designed to support school deans and principals, teachers, and education leaders in their decisions to achieve the best learning results, with additional attention for underprivileged children and youth. The toolkits discuss more than 40 different approaches to improve teaching and learning, and demonstrate the average impact on learning in months-of-progress (or decline), costs for implementing the approach (ranging from 1 £-sign for very low cost[3] to 5 £-signs for very high cost[4]), and the strength of the supporting evidence (ranging from 1 lock symbol (🔒; very limited evidence[5]) to 5 lock symbols (🔒🔒🔒🔒🔒 very extensive evidence[6])).

We present here two examples on the opposing ends of the spectrum with respect to both effectiveness and costs:

  1. Feedback has a high impact intervention (average impact = +8 months), that is really cheap (1 £‑sign), and is supported by moderate evidence (3 🔒‑symbols).

England 2

  1. Repeating a year is a negative intervention (average impact = ‑4 months), that is fairly expensive to implement (5£‑signs) and is also supported by moderate evidence (3 🔒‑symbols).

England 3

Note: The toolkits don’t offer definite stand points around what works to improve the results at a certain school. However, they give trustworthy information around what is likely (un)beneficial and on the costs as well. In their words:

The Toolkits do not make definitive claims as to what will work to improve outcomes in a given school. Rather they provide high quality information about what is likely to be beneficial based on existing evidence.

Both Toolkits [Teaching and Learning- and Early Years-toolkits] are live resources that are updated on a regular basis as new findings from high-quality research, including EEF-funded projects, become available.

The serious, well-thought out approach discussed here on educating teachers, the professional development of and support for young teachers, and the toolkits to help school principals/deans, teachers, education leaders, and schoolboards, are three things where England and the UK is leading the way. Many other countries can learn a lot and benefit from their approach.

Who’s next?


[1] We’re in a split here as to whether it’s England or the UK. In a blog that we wrote about the DfE’s Initial Teacher Training Core Content Framework we erroneously spoke of British (and were corrected by a reader; thanks!) while the Department for Education is English. In this blog, some of what we speak of is valid for the UK (e.g., Ofsted), but some only for England (e.g., DfE, EEF). We’ve chosen here to err on the side of caution: if something is for the whole UK, then it’s also for England while if it’s just for England…

[2] Department for Education (2019). ITT Core Content Framework. DfE-00230-2019. Te downloaden via https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/843676/Initial_teacher_training_core_content_framework.pdf

[3] Very low: up to £2,000 per year per class of 25 pupils, or less than £80 per pupil per year.

[4] Very high: over £30,000 per year per class of 25 pupils, or over £1,200 per pupil.

[5] No evidence reviews available, only individual research studies.

[6] At least 5 evidence reviews. Reviews are recent, and include studies with highly relevant outcomes, and studies with methods and analysis which enable researchers to draw strong conclusions about impact. Impact estimates are consistent across studies.


One thought on “England as Role Model? Really?!

  1. nicknapper says:

    Hi Paul

    Looks as though the links to this article aren’t working?

    I’m writing from the UK – is this ironic?!

    Nick Napper

    Hi Nick, this is Mirjam. Apologies, I accidentally published that blog but it was only supposed to be published next Tuesday! Please, bear with us. PS. I can’t reply to your message somehow, so I hope you’ll see this.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s