Every day, millions of young people across the UK make the journey from home to school. Each of them has a story to tell about what they leave behind and what they walk into. Some are heartening, others heartbreaking, but they all share a common theme – potential. Regardless of where a child comes from, all of them have it in them to succeed in life. And a good teacher can be all they need to realise that promise.
James Tomlinson, an undergraduate from Bolton, saw his school transformed by our teachers, and credits them with fostering his ambition to go to university and become a teacher himself. Here is his story, in his own words.
"I’ve got ten siblings, so quite a large family, and I’m third from the youngest. I’m the only one who went to university. My mother and father weren’t particularly great – when it came to nurture, they weren’t there.
I know people go on about success stories, like Richard Branson, and his multi-millions, and how he didn’t have his GCSEs. And you know, alright – if you’re really lucky, you might and up like Richard Branson, but you probably have more chance of winning the lottery.
For the vast majority of people, education is the most crucial thing for success. And the sad thing is that so many students don’t have any aspiration linked to their education.
I think there are a lot more problems at home that people don’t realise. So there isn’t always the support at home for the children’s aspirations. My mum was an alcoholic. I was 13 when she left, and that was it for five years, we didn’t have any contact with her, and that was when my father got a new girlfriend, and he moved her in about five days after my mother left.
So that’s where the teachers came in. Because where I didn’t have that nurturing at home, I had it at school.
There was a geography teacher, Joanne Wallace, she was probably the first Teach First teacher I had. Everyone looked forward to her lessons, because she made them fun. She worked really hard to get to know her students, and that was when it all started to change, because your teachers wanted to know you. It was when Ms Wallace came in to teach geography that I thought, you know what, I want to do this.
I had another Teach First teacher in years 8 and 9 called Melissa Deal. She taught Religious Education and always made lessons fun - she used bonkers things to do it, but everyone was always really engaged. I used to spend my dinnertimes with her; in fact she has quite a substantial group of pupils that would go to her at lunchtime. We used to just have a laugh, really. That was the thing with my Teach First teachers, you could do that, because you could relate to them in some ways.
My Science teacher was called Katie Blake – I’m actually still in touch with her now. The Science department wasn’t great before she came in, it, staff were leaving and so on, and she became the acting Head of Department. When she passed her NQT she became the Head of Science, and she’s still the Head of Science.
Because I wanted to be a teacher myself, and because you could tell that these teachers were different, I got to talking to them about it. Katie showed me some of her files so I could get an idea of what it was like. Ever since Katie told me about Teach First, I’ve followed it really closely. And I’ve got all these hints and tips from my teachers, and I have a little Teach First file, and I’ve compiled all the things I need to submit my application.
I was quite fortunate because I had many teachers who were an inspiration to me. Others would turn to their family for role models, but my teachers were my role models. I wanted to be a teacher, and I knew I also wanted to care – because we live in a world where not every parent does.”