Ndidi Okezie, our Executive Director of Delivery, was one of the very first people to join the Leadership Development Programme (LDP) – our two-year programme combining teacher training and a fully-funded Postgraduate Diploma in Education with one-to-one coaching. Here she blogs about how the programme helped her raise the grades, confidence, resilience and aspirations of young people from low-income communities – and about the enormous impact you could have by joining the programme today.
Back in 2003, when I started the LDP, I was pretty cocky about the experience I was about to have. I was convinced I knew exactly what to expect and could handle every facet of this “challenge” that Teach First kept saying would be “the hardest experience I had ever encountered”.
It took me precisely 20 minutes of my first lesson to realise that school had changed drastically from my experience of it. No longer was being “the teacher” enough to warrant respect. The wave of reality that hit me is something I will never forget, as I tried desperately to remember every single thing I had been taught during my initial training about behaviour management and authority. The learning curve was a steep one, but once I realised that my students needed to know I cared before they cared about what I knew, I was able to approach both my development and theirs with the right mix of humility and patience.
I know first-hand the impact you can have on the LDP, on the lives of the young people who need you the most. On the programme you will:
- Raise the achievement of pupils from low-income communities
- Boost your pupils’ self-belief and hopes for the future
- Become an inspirational leader to disadvantaged young people
Raising pupils’ achievement
When I joined the second school I taught at, Burlington Danes Academy, in 2006, only around 32% of students were achieving A* to C grades at GCSE, and the school was circling around being placed in special measures. Over the course of the next four years, under new leadership, the staff worked hand-in-hand with students and parents to more than double the results. People often ask how the school changed and, for me, it was crucial that the senior leadership set the expectation that achievement mattered.
Children from low-income families are more likely to get lower GCSE grades, not go to university, earn less and even die younger than their wealthier peers. These are disgraceful facts and the more we can do to ensure equality of access, the more we can do to eradicate these statistics.
By joining our programme you can have an enormous impact right now, and you’ll begin a journey that will continue after you complete the programme, championing the need for educational equality wherever your career takes you.
On the LDP, you’ll become a teacher and leader in a school where your skills are needed the most. Independent research shows that our teachers are already increasing the GCSE results in low-income communities, and in London – where we have placed 3,000 teachers since 2003 – schools have moved from being the lowest to the highest-performing in England.
The remarkable thing is, our participants tell us they see the difference they’re making – their contribution to our shared mission to end educational inequality - every day in the classroom.
Nikhil Kapila, for example, who used to be a parliamentary researcher for former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis, joined the LDP in 2014, teaching primary in London. He says:
“I love it when children get that lightbulb moment, particularly with children who speak English as an additional language. When they first come to the classroom they may not speak a word of English, and over a very short space of time you see them conversing with their friends, reading books, and doing things in the classroom they could have never imagined doing when they first arrived.”
Boosting their aspirations
The impact participants on the LDP have in the classroom is not only about grades. You will also make a huge difference to your pupils’ aspirations – boosting their confidence, resilience and hopes for the future.
I often recall the looks on my students’ faces when they were introduced to a new career idea or an option for their future they had previously never considered. Exposure is the most powerful inspiration there is. Without seeing or hearing what is possible, most young people can’t conceive of what might be.
“I only got my act together two years ago. I started studying and understanding what school was about then. Before that I was a right chav, I was hanging out with the wrong people… But now I have goals. I want to open a bakery. I say hopefully. I know now what I want to be doing. I am prioritising my education.” - Nadia, a pupil in London
Raising the aspirations of children from low-income communities is reflected in our most recent Ofsted report, which says, quite simply: “Nothing but the best will do.” It adds: “Everyone is wedded to the fundamental principle of improving the life chances of disadvantaged pupils.” By joining the LDP you will contribute to this powerful collective passion and commitment.
One important way of raising pupils’ aspirations is by ensuring they have the right role models to look up to. You could be that role model. Take Ciaran McCaughey, who joined the LDP in 2011. He made a huge impact as a primary school teacher in London, as part of the tiny three per cent minority of teachers in state primary schools who are male:
“Teaching in a primary school, you have this incredible opportunity to spend all day, every day, with 30 children and be a role model, to be a source of stability, to be somebody they can rely on. It's an opportunity not many people get to have.”
Being a leader in the classroom
On the LDP you’ll become more than a teacher – you’ll be an inspirational leader to children from low-income backgrounds.
I had to learn pretty quickly that I was a leader from day one. I was the one who needed to craft the vision of where we were going as a class, and I had to build trust and confidence so they would follow my steer. There is no middle ground on this one - students need their teachers to lead and so, even while I was still developing in my craft as a teacher, I was aware that I was making a significant difference and leading my students each and every day. That knowledge was always the most fulfilling part of my day. Nothing beats that feeling of knowing why you’re getting up in the morning.
According to our recent Ofsted report, “Participants are exceptionally well-prepared to continue to improve as teachers in the early stages of their careers. They are trained to be more than good classroom teachers.”
Perhaps that’s why 40 per cent of our former participants are in leadership positions three years after gaining their Qualified Teacher Status on the LDP. And why 21 individuals who’ve completed the LDP are now headteachers.
Charlie Kennard, for example, went on to found the East London Academy of Music, where he is now the principal, after joining the LDP in 2008 to teach History in the West Midlands. His school offers young people from disadvantaged communities an education focused on the music industry:
“We want to change people’s perceptions of vocational education by showing how exciting and valuable it can be. I couldn’t have done any of this without the experience I gained through Teach First.”
Find out more about the Leadership Development Programme, apply now to join our 2017 cohort and start making an enormous difference to the young people who need you the most.