Three years ago we made a big call at Teach First. We looked at our Leadership Development Programme and decided that, even though it was rated Outstanding by Ofsted and was the third most prestigious graduate scheme in the country, it wasn’t good enough. We felt, looking at the data, that there were too many classrooms where we weren’t having the impact we wanted to have, and where we weren’t properly supporting participants to make the greatest possible difference.
We made a significant investment in a programme of research that ended up with some clear recommendations about what we needed to change: a more focused curriculum with clearer emphasis on practical training early on; continuing training into the second year to give us more space to develop participants’ teaching; and a new support model to give much more on the ground help to participants. The NCTL agreed to fund the new model and we’ve spent the last 18 months getting ready to deliver.
Then, last week, it all became real, with the start of the 2017 Summer Institute. I was down in Brighton at the South Coast/South East opening ceremony; which mixed some brilliant student performances with ambassadors sharing their experiences of the programme and a fascinating keynote from Ger Grauss, the head of education at Kidzania. I spoke about some of the broader challenges in the education system; exploring why pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds do so much worse in areas like the South Coast than in London or other big cities. After so much time spent developing and working on the new model it was great to see things start to swing into action.
Then on Wednesday last week, on just their third day, participants taught their first lesson. School centred learning is a big part of the new Summer Institute with half of the five weeks spent in schools and the opportunity to teach at least ten times. This is a real step change on previous years; when participants have always told us they’d like to have more opportunity to practice during SI. On Thursday participants spent time in their school with their university tutor – bringing to life the meshing of academic quality and professional practice that is the ultimate goal of teacher development.
Over the next four weeks participants will focus on behaviour, planning and assessment as they develop the core skills needs to hit the ground running in September. Then over their first time they’ll start to explore the different philosophies of teaching and learn to blend the theoretical in with their day to day teaching. It’s going to be fascinating to see how all the concepts we’ve been discussing translate into real life but if the first week is anything to go by it’s going to offer a really great experience for our participants.