Teach First

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Teach First
Founder Brett Wigdortz
Type Company limited by guarantee and Registered Charity
Registration no. Company ref 04478840
Charity ref 1098294
Focus Education
Area served
England and Wales
Key people
Brett Wigdortz, CEO
John Colenutt, COO
Paul Drechsler,[1] Chair
£16.6m (2011)[2]
188 (2011)[2]
Website teachfirst.org.uk

Teach First (also Teach First Cymru) is a social enterprise[3] registered as a charity[4] that aims to address educational disadvantage in England and Wales. It coordinates an employment-based teaching training programme whereby participants achieve Qualified Teacher Status through the participation in a two year training programme that involves the completion of a PGCE along with wider leadership skills training.[5]

Trainees are placed at participating primary and secondary schools where they commit to stay for the duration of the training programme.[5] Eligible schools are those where more than half of the pupils come from the poorest 30% of families according to the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index.[6]

Following completion of the two-year programme, participants become Teach First ambassadors. This network of ambassadors aims to address educational disadvantage either in school or in other sectors. Since launching in 2002, Teach First has placed increasing numbers of participants in schools each year with 163 joining in 2003, up to 997 in 2012. As of 2012, the Ambassador community consists of more than 2,000 people.

Teach First was listed in 3rd place in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers list for 2013.[7] Participants are paid and employed by the schools they are placed at.[8]


In September 2001 a McKinsey study looked into how businesses could help improve secondary education in London and found that great teachers could raise pupils’ results by at least 40%.[citation needed] In January 2002, one member of the team, Brett Wigdortz, took a planned six-month leave of absence from McKinsey to develop a business plan for Teach First. In July 2002, Teach First officially launched in Canary Wharf with a team of 11 employees led by Brett Wigdortz as CEO and Stephen O’Brien and George Iacobescu as co-chairs of the Board of Trustees.

The first group of 183 participants was taken on in 2002-03, and started their training in the summer of 2003. This cohort came mostly from the Russell Group of Universities and taught in 46 schools in London.[citation needed] In 2006 Teach First expanded to Greater Manchester; in 2007 to the Midlands; in 2008 to Merseyside to create a North West office; in 2009 a Yorkshire and a Humber office was opened, and the Midlands office was split into East and West regions. In 2011 Teach First placed participants in the North East for the first time. In 2012 Teach First expanded to the Kent and Medway region.

Recruitment process[edit]

To be eligible to apply to the Teach First Leadership Development Programme candidates need to have:

  • a 2.1 degree or above, 300 UCAS points (or equivalent, excluding General Studies)
  • a degree or A-levels that satisfies Teach First's Teaching subject requirements
  • Grade C (or equivalent) in GCSE Maths and English (Grade C in one Science GCSE is also required for Primary teaching eligibility)
  • flexibility to teach within any of the Teach First regions

The recruitment process begins by registering interest and then submitting an online application within 12 weeks. If the online application is successful, candidates are invited to attend a one-day assessment centre consisting of a sample teaching lesson, competency-based interview and group case study exercise. There are eight competencies assessed throughout the recruitment process. If successful at the assessment centre, candidates are then made a conditional offer to join Teach First dependent on a subject knowledge assessment and classroom observation period.

Year No. of Applicants
No. of Incoming Teachers
Success rate of applications
Position in Times Top 100 Graduate Employers
2003 186 62nd[clarification needed]
2004 197 42nd
2005 183 19th
2006 265 16th
2007 272 14th
2008 373 9th
2009 2,918 485 16.6% 8th
2010 4,994 560 11.2% 7th
2011 5,324 770 14.5% 7th
2012 7,113 997 14.0% 4th
2013 7,602 1,262 16.6% 3rd
2014 9,000 1,400 15.5% 2nd

Teach First Programme[edit]

Participants teach in the same school throughout the two years.

Summer Institute[edit]

Before entering the classroom, participants attend a six-week Summer Institute – a residential course where they learn about the organisation's mission and develop their understanding of educational theory and practice to prepare them to begin teaching in the following September. Participants spend time training in the region in which they will teach, usually with an observation period in the school they will join after the summer. They then attend a residential course together as an entire cohort.[citation needed]


Participants receive support in many areas of their training:

Tutors All participants work with one of Teach First’s university partners towards a PGCE and QTS (qualified teacher status) during their first year teaching.

Mentors Partner schools allocate mentors to assist their trainee’s development as a teacher.

Leadership Development Officers Teach First Leadership Development Officers are all qualified teachers – and often ambassadors – and provide invaluable experience of both the programme and the school context. They support and challenge participants throughout the two years.

Leadership Development[edit]

Throughout their two years teaching, participants have access to a range of leadership development opportunities. The two-year Leadership Development programme is designed to enable participants to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes for use inside and outside the classroom. This training is delivered through workshops, panel events and one to one coaching. For example, participants have access to qualified teacher-led training sessions to provide them with tools and strategies they can apply in their classrooms. They will also attend workshops and reflective seminars to help them develop a good understanding of their strengths and areas for development . In addition, they will have the opportunity to have a coach to help them overcome the challenges they face, as well as business school training to teach them to fundamental aspects of business theory and practice which they can apply to their school context.

Participants also have the opportunity to apply for to undertake a one-three week mini-internship during the school holidays – known as a Summer Project. These provide an opportunity to join one of Teach First’s supporting or partner organisations to complete or contribute to a short-term goal or objective.

They also have the opportunity to complete the Teach First Masters degree, starting in their second year on the programme.

Participants are eligible to join the National Union of Teachers at no cost through the entire Teach First programme.[9]

Graduate Recruitment Partners[edit]

Teach First has relationships with organisations in a number of fields: Accenture, Civil Service Fast Stream, Google, PwC, Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble.

These partners interact with Teach First participants and ambassadors in a number of ways including the provision of Summer projects, coaching, networking and access to senior leaders. Including guaranteed first round interviews at selected organisations, and bespoke skills sessions and deferred-entry schemes to their graduate programmes.

The ambassador network[edit]

Upon successful completion of the Leadership Development Programme participants become a part of the ambassador network. 54% of ambassadors are in teaching positions throughout the UK.[citation needed]

Regional expansion[edit]

Teach First was based solely in London until September 2006 when it expanded into Greater Manchester schools. The programme operates in ten regions:[10] East Midlands, London, North East, North West, South Coast, South East, South West, Wales, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Teach For America and Teach First collaborated on a project with the pro-bono assistance of a team from McKinsey & Company to create Teach For All, a global network of independent social enterprises that are working to expand educational opportunity in their nations.


As part of the Teach For All network, Teach First is subject to many of the same criticisms levelled at its main partner organisation Teach for America, and offshoots such as Teach First Danmark, Teach First Norway and Teach First New Zealand.[11] Criticisms have been raised about the cost effectiveness of Teach First, with training costs seen by some to be higher per participant when compared to other training routes.[12]

Teach First asks for the graduates it recruits to give two years of teaching, and so retention rates for Teach First have been claimed to be lower than other routes into teaching, forty percent of Teach First participants stay in teaching after 5 years compared to much higher percentages coming through PGCE and GTP programmes.[13] It is anticipated and accepted that many of them will go on to careers in other sectors (hence the name, Teach First),[14] also described as "teach first, then get a better job".[15] The higher turnover rate and rapidly increasing cohort size of Teach First has been alleged as allowing schools to reduce their costs by employing teaching staff at unqualified teacher pay scales.[citation needed] It has been alleged that Teach First has been targeted by some academy school chains because of this.[16]

Teach First has been accused of elitism,[17] and has also been accused of being biased to middle-class applicants within the application process.[14] Teach First participants interviewed as part of an evaluation were predominantly middle‐class, possessing social and cultural capital which had facilitated their access to the Teach First scheme.[14] A Study by London Metropolitan University found some recruits displayed patronising middle-class attitudes, coupled with a belief that they as graduates of prestigious universities, have much to offer but nothing to learn from low-income communities.[17]

In 2009 it was reported that Teach First participants were being placed in schools where GCSE grades were above the local and national averages, and not in the worst performing secondary schools.[12] Education Data Surveys analysed the results of all the schools involved in Teach First and found 15 of the 79 London secondaries (19 per cent) had GCSE achievements above their local authority average, and 17 schools had results above the national average.[12] In the North West, five Teach First schools, or 23 per cent, had exam results which were the same or better than the local authority average.[12] In the Midlands, results at five schools, or 18 per cent, were the same or better than the local authority average and two had results at or above the national average, raising the question of why schools with GCSE results up to 80 and 70 per cent were taking part.[12]

In response Teach First said that exam results were not the "whole story" of the initiative, and the number of children claiming free school meals was as important in selecting schools to be involved.[12] Stating "Teach First selects the schools into which it places exceptional graduates through consideration of a range of criteria that indicate the level of challenge experienced at the school, including the percentage of free schools meals, the exam results at GCSE, staff turnover and the difficulties experienced by schools in recruiting new teachers."[12]

Teach First's relationship with businesses and deferred entry schemes has opened it to suggestions that it operates as an elite graduate scheme for them to recruit from.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Teach First appoints new chair". Teach First. 30 September 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Charity overview for 1098294 - TEACH FIRST". Charity Commission. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  3. ^ "What is a Social Enterprise?". Social Business Trust. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "1098294 - TEACH FIRST". Charity Commission. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Inspection Report 2011". Ofsted. July 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  6. ^ "Become a Teach First Partner school". Teach First. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  7. ^ "The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers". Milkround Online. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  8. ^ "Teacher training options - Teach First". Department for Education. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  9. ^ "Join the National Union of Teachers". National Union of Teachers. 
  10. ^ "Where we work". Teach First. 
  11. ^ McCabe, Steve (31 January 2012). "Pupils don't deserve to be Teach First guinea pigs". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Maddern, Kerra (10 July 2009). "Teach First exposed: top graduates placed in successful schools". TES. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "Centre for Education and Employment Research". 
  14. ^ a b c Smart, Sarah; Hutchings, Merryn; Maylor, Uvanney; Mendick, Heather; Menter, Ian (2010). "Processes of middle‐class reproduction in a graduate employment scheme". Journal of Education and Work 22 (1): 35–53. doi:10.1080/13639080802709661. 
  15. ^ Simon, Jane (9 January 2014). "Tough Young Teachers is a show that sounds like another TV gimmick - in fact it's anything but". The Mirror. 
  16. ^ Durston, Becky (9 January 2013). "Letters: Spare a thought for Teach First 'victims'". TES. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c Wilby, Peter (29 October 2012). "Teaching's man with a mission to free young Britons from 'slavery'". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 

External links[edit]