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]

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:[9] East Midlands, London, North East, North West, South Coast, South East, South West, Wales, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.


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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] It is anticipated and accepted that many of them will go on to careers in other sectors (hence the name, Teach First),[13] also described as "teach first, then get a better job".[14] It has been alleged that Teach First has been targeted by some academy school chains because of this.[15]

Teach First has been accused of elitism,[16] and has also been accused of being biased to middle-class applicants within the application process.[13] 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.[13] 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.[16]

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.[11] 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.[11] 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.[11] 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.[11]

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.[11] 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."[11]

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.[16]

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. ^ "Where we work". Teach First. 
  10. ^ McCabe, Steve (31 January 2012). "Pupils don't deserve to be Teach First guinea pigs". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ "Centre for Education and Employment Research" (PDF). 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Durston, Becky (9 January 2013). "Letters: Spare a thought for Teach First 'victims'". TES. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  16. ^ 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]