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Can 'teach first' really be doing this?

(312 Posts)
Cathpot Sun 16-Jun-13 21:21:38

In our department at the moment is a very pleasant 21 year old who is on the teach first programme and doing some sort of research project for a week or so. She has a good degree and has signed up to the teach first programme to get into teaching. This summer she will get 6 weeks of training in how to teach, using I think at some point some summer school kids, then in September will be dropped into a difficult school (no choice of where to go) on a 2 year contract.

She is enthusiatic and bright and seems very keen and when I was talking to her I had to kept reminding myself not to look too shocked. She is going to stand up and teach her first proper class to her first proper group of probably very tricky teenagers on her first day in the job. This seems insane to me- how can this be working? How is this ok for her or the kids in her class? I am all for cutting down the college aspect of teacher training and getting students out into schools to work out how to do the job but it seem self evident that the PGCE year is essential to producing teachers who won't get eaten alive in tricky class rooms. She told me some schools have as many as 5 teachers from teach first at any one time and that if they dont stay on at the end of 2 years they just replace them with a new one. I can't really get past how insane this seems as an idea.

nennypops Mon 17-Jun-13 21:36:16

The daughter of a friend did this. She's a lovely, very bright girl who I would say would be an excellent teacher. She was put into a very rough secondary school to teach maths, and although there were a number of able, motivated kids who loved her, the great majority of her lessons were living hell: she was left largely unsupported and having had minimal training to deal with large classes of adolescent kids, many of them bigger than her, who didn't want to be there and for whom there seemed to be no limits in terms of behaviour. It wasn't just a matter of class disruption, it was direct physical and sexual threats, intimidation to her and others, and occasional actual violence. She was expected to deal with children with complex learning difficulties in respect of which she's had no training at all. On top of that she was doing her course at weekends and had a load of coursework to fit in on top of lesson planning and marking.

She got through her first term but had a look at Christmas where she was going to have to spend 18 hours a day every day - including Christmas - working her socks off, realised she was absolutely dreading going back, and quit. The motivated children were distraught because they'd never had such a good maths teacher.

I think it's a real shame because, had she gone through the PGCE route, she'd probably still be teaching now, and generations of children would reap the benefit. As it is, she's taken her maths skills off to do accountancy where she will earn twice as much for half the workload.

TheEarlOf Mon 17-Jun-13 22:43:58

I'm still at uni but will be starting Teach First in September 2014. I did a 'intern' placement this year while in my second year at uni working with yr7 and y8 bottom maths sets and while it was tough (half the time it was behaviour management rather than teaching). I really enjoyed it and I know people on the traditional PGCE route and with what I learnt on the weeks really intensive training before my placement was what they learnt in weeks (just beacuse they did it at a slower pace).

Also, Teach First work in outstanding schools, the criteria is something to do with a proportion of the pupils from a low socioeconomic background.

TheEarlOf Mon 17-Jun-13 22:46:18

I was truly shocked by some of the maths teachers in the school though. I was drafted in to help with an A-level Maths lesson and said I was a bit hesitant having not done maths at uni, just an A-Level a few years earlier and my mentor said that put me ahead of most of the maths teacher in the department who didn't even have A-Level maths!

if Teach first can get bright graduates in who can do it and stick out tough situations I think the pupils benefit from it (obviously I am a bit biased as I am on Teach First but it's just my opinion!)

EvilTwins Mon 17-Jun-13 23:02:23

I agree to a point, but think it's vital that high achieving graduates don't feel the need to complete the sentence with "teach first, then go and get on with your real career"...

TheEarlOf Mon 17-Jun-13 23:09:33

EvilTwins I see your worry but I would never have considered teaching at this stage of my life without Teach First. Is it better for children to have two years of good (that is obviously up for debate) teachers or to not have those people at all (obviously other routes produce outstanding teachers and just being a high graded graduate doesn't make you a good teacher but Teach First graduates have chosen it for a reason and to be honest we are very pushed to do extra things for the school e.g. extra curricular and pastoral care to at least try and get unengaged children engaged again)

TheFallenMadonna Mon 17-Jun-13 23:14:11

Teach First work in outstanding schools? Why?
I mean, I know that it would provide a good training and support programme, and that key to the success of the initiative in terms of the quality of teacher. But I thought there was more to it than that. Outstanding graduates for less than outstanding schools...?

EvilTwins Mon 17-Jun-13 23:17:18

I think your response, whilst well-meaning, is naive. You cannot underestimate the disruption to a school if the is a large turnover of staff. My issue with Teach First has always been the timescale- get the top grads in and get them to commit to two year's of teaching. Convince them it'll be good for their future career prospects and that this poor disadvantaged kids will benefit from their superiority. Sorry, but no. In my experience, kids benefit far more, in the sorts if schools TF targets, by getting from school the stability many of them lack at home. I used to teach in a school in London which had TF teachers back in the early 2000s. A teacher who comes for two years, with the intention of it being a short-term placement before moving on to bigger and better (paid) things can do just as much damage as good.

I agree we need to ensure there is a steady flow of decent graduates into teaching, but am not sure that the "teach first, feel smug, pass on your genius then move on" approach is the best.

Obviously it may well be your intention to make teaching your long term career, in which case, fabulous, but I have come across more than one TF graduate in the past who feels it's a good way to "hibe back" before moving on to a more capitalist career.

EvilTwins Mon 17-Jun-13 23:19:07

Eeek- typos.

Years not year's.

Give back.

Sure there are others...

TheEarlOf Mon 17-Jun-13 23:41:29

More typos? I am the queen of typos! On an internet forum as long as it makes sense it's fine.

EvilTwins I think you're right in that it used to be sold as a it'll make you more employable etc. but we have definitely been warned that it's not like that any more, you have to do it because you like/love teaching and while it will enhance other career prospects you won't just walk into a corporate job because of it. I am not naive in that disruption of teachers isn't worse but I also went into a school where 'normal' teachers weren't even there for 2 years and the staff turnover was much higher than that, so even 2 years was some stability.

TheFallenMadonna They work in outstanding schools because of the criteria for a school is not how bad it is but about the demographics of teh school's pupils. I don't really know much about it so you'd probably have to look on their website for more info

smee Tue 18-Jun-13 10:12:03

My DS has a Teach First Teacher this year. I was a bit sceptical at first, but she's utterly brilliant. Really impressed with her and the kids all love her too. She's teaching Yr4 in an inner city, quite deprived area. Not an outstanding school, but ofsted 'good'.

Happymum22 Thu 20-Jun-13 12:57:52

DDs best friend does Teach First Primary and from what I've heard, I am a big supporter. I am a deputy head of a primary and, if we were in the right area, I would love to have a TF teacher.

I am so glad there is a lot of support on this thread, I am always nervous when I see TF mentioned as there is a lot of skepticism about it. Many don't understand it or realise the amount of training given is barely any less than PGCEs or School Direct (infact, often more than school direct). Yes it is not a perfect route, but all routes into teaching have their downsides. IMO all these advantages and disadvantages are equal.
The interview process is horrendously tough and 99% of the time they really don't let anyone in who isn't up to it and doesn't understand it is about the teaching and raising standards, not improving your CV or feeling good and all rosey about helping a deprived community
They do work right from when they get their offer completing time in schools, action plans to get their subject knowledge up to scratch and preparation work which involves very extensive interactive online modules. They then do the 6 weeks, which I have heard is very intensive and innovative training, followed by being mentored and supported throughout their first two years.
There is definitely a switch in attitude, the company require a lifelong commitment to education. The numbers who move out of teaching after two years are almost the same as other routes into teaching. Those who do it have something different about them to want to do Teach First.

To address EvilTwin's points:

You cannot underestimate the disruption to a school if the is a large turnover of staff. My issue with Teach First has always been the timescale- get the top grads in and get them to commit to two year's of teaching.
This isn't the case anymore, and if they do move from teaching many set up social enterprise, helping address educational disadvantage in other ways, or go into e.g. the civil service dept of ed. And, as I said, turnover is not much different, if not better than, from normal staff turnover in such schools.

Convince them it'll be good for their future career prospects and that this poor disadvantaged kids will benefit from their superiority. Sorry, but no. In my experience, kids benefit far more, in the sorts if schools TF targets, by getting from school the stability many of them lack at home.
I agree we need to ensure there is a steady flow of decent graduates into teaching, but am not sure that the "teach first, feel smug, pass on your genius then move on" approach is the best.
Any Teach First-er with that attitude would be filtered out in the interview process now (perhaps not 10 years ago when it was less oversubscribed)

I agree on your point if more TF participants are committed to make a long term career of it then this is when even bigger impacts will be seen. The King Solomons academy in London is a fantastic example of what can be achieved.

Mo2013 Mon 24-Jun-13 15:25:51

The teach first scheme has a very extensive recruitment process. I went through this myself in 2011. It is basically aimed at exceptional graduates fresh from Uni or experienced people looking to change industry with a fast track route into teaching in "deprived" areas to tackle educational disadvantage.
The criteria needed to apply are high caliber as you need a grade A at A-level for your chosen subject plus a 2.1 at a top tier University. For the recruitment part I was required to prepare and deliver mock lessons, group study cases, basic literacy/numeracy tests, 1-1 interviews, submit a proposal on how I would approach my subject, Knowledge Audits. All in all from applying to having all the stages accepted, it was 4 months and I was offered a deferred place in a school in 2013. My personal situation is different, unlike the fresh faced flexible free as a bird graduates, I am 27 (applied when I was 25) and have worked in Banking for 4 years, by the time my school placement was finalised, it became impossible to manage due to my personal circumstances - My wife is pregnant and expecting in September. With a heavy heart, I had to retract my placement as I am staying in the Midlands and the placement they offered was London.
I regrettably had to opt out of the summer institute which is the 6 weeks intensive mentoring/training and developing that is provided to gear you up for term start. By all accounts, this scheme is very successful and opens up the door for many people into teaching that would not have necessarily followed that route traditionally.

mumeeee Mon 24-Jun-13 17:37:50

How can she just teach science it's a specialist subject. DD1 did a PGCE in Biology and she had to do short courses in Chemistry and Physics to be able to teach those subjects to A level. She is now 26 and has just got the head of science job at the school where she works. She has only been teaching for 2 and a half years. There are a lot of challenging pupils in the school.

TheEarlOf Mon 24-Jun-13 17:53:36

mumeeee How can who teach science?
For TF to teach secondary science the requirements are:
Please note, to be eligible to teach Science two relevant A-Levels are required. (+ a degree in a sciency subject)

Regarding the subject knowledge issue, you have to do a Subject Knowledge Audit and are expected to catch up with any areas you feel you are deficit in. If you've done an A-level in the subject why wouldn't you know the GCSE knowledge in it?

sashh Tue 25-Jun-13 05:47:07


Have you considered teaching in FE? I did my training at Staffordshire Uni (Delivered at Stafford College which is opposite the mainline train station so easily accessible from anywhere in the Midlands with a train station).

The course is over two years and is either a half day or one evening a week.

You need to have access to learners but this can be an evening class (paid) or voluntary work.

I know it wouldn't be easy with a new baby but might be more doable. It qualifies you to teach age 14 - adult in an FE college and there are moves to make it acceptable for QTS with some additional training.

LoveSewingBee Wed 15-Jan-14 15:48:01

I know this is an old thread, but watched the TV program on BBC 3 yesterday and I thought the level of teaching of these graduates was SHOCKING.nthey were clueless, both in terms of subject matter and didactics.

Moonboots222 Sat 01-Mar-14 02:23:59

Number 1: have you ever taught in a school?

If you have you must realise how difficult it is on your first few weeks, no matter what route you take into teaching.

Number 2: do you really think you were getting the whole picture of these fledgling teacher's careers from 1 hours tv programme?

Get a grip

Chloerose75 Sat 01-Mar-14 02:38:17

What TV prog are you talking about? Might I player it.

EvilTwins Sat 01-Mar-14 16:36:36

Tough Young Teachers on BBC3. It was clearly edited for effect, but yes, there was some appalling stuff. What annoyed me most, in all honesty, was the lack of up-to-date thinking - obsession with getting a C when it's more about progress now.

One thing that did make me raise my eyebrows was the young guy who left after one year - clearly a good teacher but more than once the issue was raised by his friends (and fiancée) that he should be doing a "better" job with more money. This is my issue with TF - graduates who think it's the first step on the ladder to something else. I also wanted to punch the TV any time one of them referred to
"Giving back" to the community.

My babysitter has just applied for TF and had her assessment. The task they set her was, IMO, bizarre - she had to teach 2 adults for 7 minutes, and pretend that they were "ks3" students - no suggestion of whether that meant 11 yr olds or 14 yr olds. No info given about ability or SN. This wouldn't happen in a real teaching interview. I'm really not sure what they were trying to do.

Thymeout Sat 01-Mar-14 17:58:35

I think the obsession with getting a C was to do with the fact that a C is the bare minimum for many 6th forms. It was more the question of what choices the student would have in September than how well the school had taught him up to that point.

Re pps who said that TF students are sent to 'oustanding' schools. Surely Archbishop Lefranc did not come into that category? I think the last programme said that its results had been on the decline for the previous 5 years.

SaturdaySuperstore Sat 01-Mar-14 18:01:05

Chloerose, here's a link to info on Tough Young Teachers, but it looks like its not on IPlayer any more. There are some clips though.

I watched the whole series, and thought most of the TF teachers were a bit eccentric in one way or another. I guess you have to be to agree to be filmed doing something like that. It would be nerve-wracking enough anyway without a TV crew following you around.

I do know people in the teaching profession who are full of praise for the Teach First programme, so its hard to tell if the experiences in the film were typical.

SaturdaySuperstore Sat 01-Mar-14 18:05:02

"Surely Archbishop Lefranc did not come into that category?"

No, its in Special Measures.

LordPalmerston Sat 01-Mar-14 18:07:27

i was just 23 when I started and was paid for it - taught as a PGCE at 22

you are a teacher ergo you are ancient acc to the kids

chibi Sat 01-Mar-14 18:07:49

i know of one who has a degree in english/drama, but who is teaching maths because that's what the school needed, and she has an a level in maths hmm

i think it is outrageous.

SaturdaySuperstore Sat 01-Mar-14 18:11:21

"i think it is outrageous"
Not surprising though when we have a shortage of maths teachers generally. Agencies are recruting them from abroad.

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