Early Career Teacher: A term-by-term breakdown of your ECT years

Early Career Teacher: A term-by-term breakdown of your ECT years

Your first two years in the classroom as an Early Career Teacher (ECT), or Newly Qualified Teacher in Wales (NQT), are those of learning, growth and development, but also endless excitement and fun! Term by term, you'll be participating in different activities and shaping your career, discovering your unique skills as a qualified teacher.

In this article, we will dive into what happens in each term of an academic year, so you know what to expect as an Early Career Teacher. Understandably every school is different, and while some elements may differ from school to school, the overall structure ensures you are earning your full qualifications and developing into an excellent educator.

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Term one: Establishing a strong foundation

Your first term as an ECT is all about setting the groundwork for your teaching career. As such, orientation and induction are first on the list! You'll attend an ECT induction program provided by your school or the local authority. This includes an introduction to school policies, procedures, and expectations.

You may have attended the school previously, or this may be the first time you’ve set foot on school grounds. Either way, you need to ensure you make a great first impression, so read through the school’s ethos on their website and get to know the school before you attend. Make sure you also follow the school’s dress code and come dressed appropriately for the class that you are teaching.

Next, your classroom experience will begin. You will soon be teaching your own classes while being observed and supported by a mentor, gradually taking on more responsibilities and learning from feedback. Your first formal observation will happen with your mentor within your first four weeks of teaching, so make sure you allocate some time to prepare a stellar lesson.

Professional development is key during your first term and throughout your ECT years. You should be attending ECT training sessions and workshops to enhance your pedagogical knowledge and skills. You can also develop professionally from the comfort of your own home with free CPD videos from My-Progression. Your mentor will be there to help with your professional development, and through regular meetings will support your teaching journey and help you flourish.

Last but by no means least, your first term will be the first opportunity to build your evidence portfolio for your upcoming assessments. Throughout your time as an ECT you will need to gather evidence against each of the eight standards that you will be assessed on. Lesson plans, reflective statements, a CV and photos of displays are just some of the elements you should include in your Early Career Teacher portfolio to evidence your work. The eight standards in 2023 set by the UK government are:

  • Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils
  • Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils
  • Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge
  • Plan and teach well-structured lessons
  • Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils
  • Make accurate and productive use of assessment
  • Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment
  • Fulfil wider professional responsibilities

For more information on surviving your first term, check out the My-Progression video below:

Term two: Building on experience

In the second term, you'll continue to refine your teaching practice, with an increase in responsibility. You may take on more (or bigger) classes, as well as more responsibilities within the school. Some examples include parent-teacher meetings, reports and data analysis. Your confidence will grow along with these responsibilities, as you learn more and more about this exciting role.

You can expect more formal observations from your mentor or a member of the senior leadership team. These will be important for your formal assessments, in which you will have one midway through your first year and one towards the end of year two.

You will have some of your time in school dedicated to PPA (Planning, Preparation and Assessment), which should take up 10% of your weekly teaching timetable. In your first year, you will have a 10% reduction in your timetable and 5% in your second year. PPA is time spent away from teaching to complete work you deem important for your class, allowing you ample time to prepare for lessons and assessments.

By the time you reach the end of your second term, you will be well into the swing of things and have settled into a good routine. Don’t forget to keep updating your portfolio, including examples of times that you have used differentiation and inclusive teaching practices.

Throughout your teaching journey, your classroom management will develop. At the start, you’ll most likely be focusing on the day-to-day management of the classroom, however, as you progress you will learn more about writing and managing Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Around this time, you should start managing your teaching assistants too, ensuring that they are helping your class in the best possible way and that their skills are being utilised. Towards the end of your ECT years, you will be expected to manage both classroom staff and children, which shows you are ready to take on additional responsibilities.


Term three: Advancing your practice and preparing for assessments

As you move into your third term, you should see significant progress in your teachings, be sure to take five and recognise all your hard work! You will be teaching independently by now, with fewer observations. But don’t worry, your mentor will still be there to offer a helping hand.

There may be conferences or networking events happening during this time, which are great for gaining fresh perspectives while meeting fellow educators. Plus, you may learn extra tips and tricks which you can apply to your classroom, evidencing professional development.

To complete your ECT years, you will complete two formal assessments, the first taking place in the summer term. Get ahead and start preparing at the start of the term and be sure to speak to your mentor to see what you need to develop ahead of your assessment. Your assessment usually consists of an interview and portfolio review, so all those display boards and lesson plans you collected in the previous two terms will come in handy here!

Attend any remaining ECT training sessions and professional development opportunities ahead of submitting your portfolio for review. Finally, take a deep breath... You’ve achieved so much in such a short space of time and changed not only your learning experience, but your pupils’ too.

Ahead of your assessment, take time to reflect. What are the moments you are most proud of? What could you have improved upon? What was something you were not expecting, and how did you approach it? Reflection is key, not only to appreciate the hard work and dedication you have put in, but to know your strengths and development points ahead of the assessment interview.

Once your interview is done, you can relax knowing you’ve made an excellent contribution to the world of education. Take the summer to rest and prepare towards the end of the holidays for your next ECT year.

Your career as an ECT or NQT in England and Wales is a structured and supportive journey designed to help you become a confident and effective teacher. Each term brings new opportunities for growth and development, leading you to gain the qualification you need to prove how much of an excellent educator you are. If you have any questions regarding your ECT years, contact us today and one of our dedicated consultants will be on hand to help.