Teach First Director of Teacher Development Faye Craster
Faye Craster
Director of Teacher Development, Teach First

5 ways our Training Programme sets new teachers up for success

Our Training Programme has evolved significantly since we started in 2003. Faye Craster sheds light on how we turn trainees into great teachers.

There is a science and an art to becoming a great teacher. The depth of thinking and evidence on this has grown rapidly in recent years.

We now draw on the best research from around the world for our rigorous two-year training programme, delivered in collaboration with schools and universities. Our shared aim is clear: that all pupils have access to a great teacher.

Teach First recruits people with the potential to become great teachers and leaders, placing them in schools which need them most. This isn’t easy though. We work with teachers with a great diversity of experience and partner with over a thousand schools, many of which are serving some of the most disadvantaged communities in the system.

Our solution starts with recruiting great people; but the key to our efforts lies in ensuring each and every one of our trainees becomes the best teacher they can be, as quickly as possible.

To achieve this, our curriculum is centred around several key modules:

These are expertly designed and sequenced, enabling our trainees to effectively progress in their learning and expertise of both teaching and leadership.

Underpinning all of this, we’ve made five key bets in our approach to teacher development. These help us ensure that our programme meets the needs of both our teachers and the schools they work in.

1. Preparation, preparation, preparation

Before our trainees enter the classroom as teachers in September, they will have already completed over 250 hours of training. This includes:

  • a rigorous curriculum knowledge assessment and action plan to ensure they understand the key concepts they will be teaching
  • two weeks teaching and observing in a school alongside an expert mentor
  • clear exploration of key research and approaches to teaching, including Rosenshine’s principles of instruction.

2. Clear sequencing and prioritisation of the curriculum over two years

We ask all trainees and schools to commit to two years of training.  This commitment is significantly longer than other teacher training but ensures adequate time for trainees to develop the knowledge and skills required to become effective teachers and potential leaders in schools.

At the start of the programme we focus our training on 4 key areas:

  • Behaviour management and routines.
  • Planning and teaching individual lessons. 
  • Using formative assessment. 
  • Professional responsibilities.

Our research shows that trainees who established these foundations were more likely to be successful.  These concepts are explored within a specific subject or phase, ensuring that all trainees build up the basic approaches to teaching before entering the classroom.

Throughout the two-year programme these concepts are often revisited. However, trainees are also introduced to more complex pieces of research and approaches to pedagogy.  This includes leading their own independent action research to support their school in specific improvement areas.

3. Expert instructional coaching and deliberate practice

Each of our trainees is assigned an expert teacher educator from Teach First called a Development Lead. These individuals are all experienced teachers and school leaders with significant experience of training new teachers. They are trained in a range of models of coaching and mentoring and specifically use Instructional Coaching to accelerate trainee progress.

Development Leads work closely with both a university subject tutor and an in-school mentor, to ensure that training is consistent.

Our approach to Instructional Coaching is based on Jim Knight’s work and builds upon modules developed by Bambrick-Santoyo. Development Leads make expert observations of the trainee teaching or in practice, before carefully selecting their areas of improvement. Once identified, they lead the trainee in completing deliberate practice using a model (such as the one below developed by Dean’s for Impact).

4. Subject and pedagogical content knowledge

The school curriculum is demanding, so expertise and enthusiasm for subjects is fundamental to success as a teacher.    We therefore work with some of the best universities in the country to design and teach a high-quality subject-based curriculum.  50% of our training is taught by subject experts and all modules have assessments requiring trainees to think deeply about their subjects and develop research-informed practice in their teaching.

Each trainee also has support from a subject-specific mentor in school.  Mentors on our programme have access to curriculum materials designed by experts from across the country, as well as one-to-one support from both university tutors and Development Leads.

5. Wellbeing

Teacher wellbeing is fundamental to retention beyond training, as well as their success throughout any Initial Teacher Training programme.  We want as many of our teachers as possible to love teaching and stay where they are needed most.

To help support this we have four key strategic areas:

  • Working with expert psychologists, we have designed a unique Wellbeing Module. This helps trainees explore the science behind managing their wellbeing and identifies strategies which will work for them.
  • Carefully designing the programme and assessment requirements, so trainees don’t require significant amounts of administration or paperwork.
  • Ensuring all trainees and mentors have access to the best available research, so they spend their time working on the things that make a difference to pupils.
  • All of our trainees have access to confidential advice and counselling through the Education Support Partnership, paid for by Teach First.

We’re glad the extra support has contributed, last year, to 83% of our trainees staying in teaching into their third year.

But we know the support can’t stop then. That's why we’re delighted to be one of the first providers of the Department for Education’s Early Career Development Programme – which will soon support all newly qualified teachers to thrive in their first few years.

And if we keep giving teachers the opportunity to develop, they’re more likely to stay – which is why we also offer National Professional Qualifications for any teacher working in a low-income school.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to attract and develop great teachers, please get in touch.  

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