As a child suggests an answer to the question on decimal points, the pupils begin clicking their fingers in unison.
Their headteacher, Beth Humphreys, explains that the clicking “shows they support or agree, or also can be to show support to someone who is struggling”.
Throughout the lesson, the class moves seamlessly from chatter with their partner to discuss a problem, chanting their times tables, work on mini-whiteboards, and independent, silent work at their desks, guided by early career teacher Katie Juckes.
Ms Juckes explains that the clarity of those expectations and the variety of the lesson help with managing focus and behaviour.
“When they are working at their tables, it is silent and you will have a consequence even if you make a small noise, but that’s because when you come to the carpet, you will be chanting…they have the opportunity to wiggle and move,” she explains.
Throughout the class, live feedback is delivered by her mentor, Skaiste Anuzyte-Becker, who adds that because Ms Juckes has “received that support in terms of team teaching and coaching”, she is able to focus on “those tiny elements, making those routines crisp and clean”.
The school also runs weekly professional development sessions on a Monday afternoon, when the pupils have an early finish. King Solomon serves an area with high levels of deprivation, and so when it comes to lessons, the teachers say no second can be wasted.
Ms Juckes, who is clearly adored by her class, has also benefited from Ark academies teacher training – this can focus on small details such as the way worksheets are handed out.
“As a result of that, behaviour is impeccable in the class,” says Ms Anuzyte-Becker.
This kind of targeted support, in which a mentor supports their mentee several times a week, and knows each pupil in the class and their varying needs, embodies the kind of support teachers will have access to as part of the Early Careers Framework, the Government says.
In the Schools White Paper, published on Monday, the Government confirmed its commitment to provide 500,000 teacher training opportunities across all levels of the profession during this parliament.
And its Institute of Teaching, announced last year, is set to become the Government’s flagship teacher training provider, showcasing the Early Career Framework – a reform that provides a two-year induction package for new teachers, introduced in September 2021.
“I think one of the real things of value in the Early Careers Framework…is that new teachers feel really supported by someone who’s on their side, but who’s also an expert on what they’re doing,” says Hilary Spencer, chief executive of Ambition Institute, a school staff professional development provider.
It is that finely tuned focus on “instructional focus” that helps early teachers to recalibrate their practice, she says.
Ms Humphreys explains that the routines seen in the lesson are used across Ark schools and that they have worked with Ambition Institute on these.
The thinking on how to improve early teachers’ practice has also “really shifted”, she says, and there are “practical techniques you can learn” for managing the classroom that are more helpful than a narrative of “born teachers”.
“It’s about trying to demystify teaching a bit – it’s not some magic thing. You can learn to be a great teacher,” she says.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “It cannot be said enough that teachers are the bedrock of our schools – and as much as any other profession they have gone above and beyond over the past two years.
“Excellent teachers inspire each and every child, and that is why I am investing in every one of them through the Schools White Paper.”
“I am reaffirming my commitment to £30,000 starting salaries and salary increases at all levels of the profession; investing in teachers’ development, with 500,000 training opportunities; and backing them professionally, with high quality classroom resources and materials so teachers can spend less time on lesson planning and more time on what they do best – supporting all children,” he added.
“This commitment to teachers will move us towards our end goal for children, to shift the average GCSE grade in English language and maths, from 4.5 in 2019 to a 5 by 2030.”
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