Mentoring for Early Career Chemistry Teachers

Mentoring for Early Career Chemistry Teachers (MECCT) was a one-year mentoring intervention developed by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to improve early careers teachers’ (ECTs) retention by supporting them with their teaching.

The project evaluated in this pilot included the pairing of ECTs teaching at Key Stages 3 and 4 (with between one- and five-years’ teaching experience) with a subject-specialist mentor (with over five years’ experience). Mentors and mentees were advised to meet for a total of six times, for up to an hour, however, the frequency and format of delivery were flexible. The mentoring sessions, aimed at improving ECTs’ confidence, were designed to provide them with skills to better manage workload and stress, as well as expand their chemistry specific pedagogical knowledge.

In addition to the mentoring sessions, ECTs also received additional support through an online forum and additional resources provided by the RSC.


Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4

Key stage




EEF Summary

This project was part of a co-funded round on science teacher retention with the Wellcome Trust. Research has shown that teachers who feel supported are less likely to leave the profession, and that mentoring is a popular way of addressing teacher efficacy, job satisfaction and workload. The pilot was funded to assess whether the programme had evidence of promise, was feasible and was ready to be trialled to test impact. The pilot evaluation found that the programme was feasible, with most ECTs reporting positive experiences. However, the level of flexibility in the delivery of the mentoring sessions resulted in many mentor and mentee pairings meeting fewer than six times in a year, with many sessions delivered remotely rather than face-to-face. This made it challenging to test the validity of the programme’s ability to achieve all of its intended aims.

Overall, the evaluation found that some participating ECTs felt more supported, reporting that their confidence, knowledge and pedagogical skills had increased. However, there was limited evidence to suggest the programme had improved ECTs’ ability to manage their workload. or influenced their intentions to stay in teaching.

The pilot evaluation suggested that some aspects of MECCT should be strengthened before it was ready for trial. Areas for improvement included more effective matching of mentors and mentees, ensuring mentors’ expertise meets mentees’ needs, and further engagement of schools to allow mentors to gain a deeper understanding of schools’ cultures. It was also suggested that more regular monitoring was needed to improve implementation and resulting impacts. This included monitoring the relationships between mentors and mentees, to both understand the nature of relationships and whether regular meetings were taking place.

The EEF continues to be interested in approaches to supporting ECTs, and interventions that look to improve teacher retention more generally.

Research Results



Is there evidence to support the theory of change?

The evaluation found that some participating ECTs reported increases in their confidence, knowledge, and pedagogical skills, and in feeling supported. However, there was limited evidence to suggest the programme had impacted on ECTs’ ability to manage their workload or their intentions to stay in teaching. Given the mixed findings of the evaluation, and the low fidelity of some of the key implementation measures (such as the number of meetings between ECTs and mentors), it is difficult to fully validate the Theory of Change developed by the RSC team.

Is the approach feasible to deliver?

The evaluation found that it was feasible to deliver the MECCT programme and most of the ECTs who participated in the programme were positive about their experiences. However, key aspects of the MECCT programme need to be strengthened. For example, the recruitment process for mentors and ECTs needs to be improved to enable more effective matching between mentors and mentees, perhaps with a longer lead-in time or an increased pool of mentors and ECTs.

Is the intervention ready for scaling up?

The MECCT intervention is not ready for trial and a number of formative suggestions have been made for how it could be improved. This includes more active monitoring of the relationships between ECTs and mentors and whether meetings are taking place. In addition, more evidence should be gathered on the intervention’s potential, or otherwise, to address and impact on the key needs of ECTs- workload and stress – as a precursor to improving retention.

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Key Stage 3

Start date

November 2018

End date

November 2020

Type of trial

Pilot Study

  1. Updated: 6th November, 2020

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-mentoring-for-early-career-chemistry-teachers.pdf

  2. Updated: 5th November, 2020

    Pilot report

    3 MB pdf - Mentoring_for_Early_Career_Chemistry_Teachers_Pilot_Evaluation_-_final.pdf

  3. Updated: 25th March, 2019

    Evaluation Protocol

    816 KB pdf - Mentoring_ECCT_Protocol_2019.03.18_FINAL.pdf

Full project description

This project was part of a co-funded round on science teacher retention with the Wellcome Trust. Mentoring for Early Career Chemistry Teachers (MECCT) was a mentoring intervention developed by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to improve early career teachers’ (ECTs) retention by supporting them with their teaching. The intervention specifically aimed to help participating ECTs feel more supported by:

  • boosting their confidence;
  • expanding their chemistry specific pedagogical knowledge;
  • helping them to manage their workload and stress; and 
  • supporting them to stay in teaching.
  • It also aimed to provide mentors with the skills required to implement flexible and personalised mentoring. 

The MECCT pilot was delivered over one year in the East of England and the Midlands, pairing 40 early career chemistry teachers (with between one and five years of teaching experience) with 39 external subject-specialist mentors (one mentor was paired with two mentees). The key activities of the programme included the matching of ECTs to mentors, an initial training event for mentors and ECTs, mentoring sessions for ECTs, and support from the RSC—including access to RSC resources, three check-ins with ECTs and mentors via email every term, and a follow-up webinar for mentors. 

The aim of this pilot was to assess MECCT’s evidence of promise, feasibility, and readiness for trial. The evaluation, which was conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) between October 2018 and March 2020, used mixed methods, including observations of two of the initial training events, a baseline survey of ECTs, an end-point survey of ECTs, the analysis of mentoring logs, telephone interviews with 12 ECTs, 10 mentors, and one ECT’s line manager, and interviews with four different members of the RSC delivery team.