CEO Russell Hobby sets out how Teach First can be a worthwhile investment for recruiting teachers for primary schools.
Primary school teachers
Teach First is best known for its work in secondaries, placing around 850 trainees in that phase in 2018. But last year we also placed over 400 primary and early years trainees. This year we have been more successful and have fantastic primary teachers available to join schools in every region of England from September.
Yet, in some parts of the country, this side of Teach First is not well known. There is also a perception that Teach First might not fit the distinctive needs of primary schools, but I think it can be a great fit and I want to tackle any concerns head on.
Firstly, there is a sense that, by handing the selection of a new trainee over to Teach First, schools lose control of the process. This matters in primaries where a new member of staff is a big thing, and where teachers are very visible to parents.
Schools have to trust in who we recruit and select. Thankfully the vast majority of our partner heads attest to the rigorous process we go through to find great people for your school.
the vast majority of our partner heads attest to the rigorous process we go through to find great people for your school.
Recruitment and Selection
Their academic credentials are excellent: Sixty-three per cent of our 2018 cohort attended a Russell Group university and 95 per cent achieved a 2.1 degree or better.
But we know that, by themselves, these academic credentials do not mean they will make it in the classroom. So we assess a range of characteristics, from planning to resilience, plus curriculum knowledge. The process includes a written application, and a full selection day, with interviews, group exercises and teaching practice. Above all, we’re looking for that spark – someone who will love working with young children and who wants to make a difference to the children who need it most.
we assess a range of characteristics, from planning to resilience, plus curriculum knowledge.
We’re fortunate to be one of the top ten most prestigious graduate recruiters, so entry is competitive. This gives us confidence we will find people who will add real value to your school.
There is also sometimes a fear that our recruits come from privileged backgrounds, and so won’t understand the context of your school.
Some of them do, and they have a perspective to offer. But our cohort is genuinely diverse: last year half of them were part of the first generation in their families to go to university. Nearly a third attended a secondary school with levels of deprivation that would make it eligible for support from Teach First.
our cohort is genuinely diverse: last year half of them were part of the first generation in their families to go to university.
It’s also important not to forget that nearly a third of Teach First recruits are experienced professionals who have come into teaching as a second career – something that can bring immense benefits to schools.
Andrew Rushton, headteacher of Netherton C of E Primary School in Dudley, West Midlands, turned to Teach First in 2015 after finding it hard to find NQTs with the “passion, drive and desire to truly make a difference.”
“What we got was the sort of people we’d been looking for, for years. People who were passionate, committed, hard-working and challenged our thinking,” he said.
Teacher recruitment costs and the benefits
But I know budgets are tights. And schools have concerns about the costs of employing a Teach First trainee, as well as their capacity to support them.
There is a fee. It starts at £4,000 per year for primary schools, depending on school size and location. We ensure schools are relieved of the financial burden of recruiting a new member of staff. We provide a trainee teacher for two years, with higher retention rates to that point than average. And, unlike other trainees, they start on 60 per cent timetable from day one.
unlike other trainees, they start on 60 per cent timetable from day one.
The two-year package of training and support that a Teach First trainee unlocks can be hugely valuable at a time schools have been forced to tighten their belts.
Our partner schools receive a grant of £2,600 to fund a senior teacher to support their new trainee. There is also free training provided for this mentor to help them develop in this role.
Trainees receive £3,500-worth of training and support in their second year, with Teach First trainers making frequent visits to cement the teacher’s development in their NQT year.
And if you’re eligible to work with Teach First, we can also offer free training for your existing staff (not just Teach Firsters) – with fully funded National Professional Qualifications at middle leader, senior leader, and headship levels.
As I assess our service, I listen to the schools we work with. In our latest survey, 93 per cent of heads and 86 per cent of school mentors said our training was outstanding or good.
93% of heads and 86% of school mentors said our training was outstanding or good.
Jo Jones, headteacher at Story Wood school in Birmingham said:
“On initial viewing, working with Teach First can look like a more expensive option than some other ‘in- school’ training routes, but there are many benefits that make it a worthwhile and effective investment. “
Primary teacher retention
It’s also important to address the perception that Teach First recruits are not in it for the long term.
We track this closely and I’ve written about it before. Our records show 94 per cent of Teach First trainees who have started with schools have stayed for at least two years, achieving QTS and completing their NQT induction year. And we work with you to keep providing opportunities, so teachers feel developed and challenged and want to stay longer. Of all the teachers who have ever trained with us since 2003, 5,000 or 60% are teaching today and the majority of them remain in schools serving low income communities. This is better than many expect. Interestingly, some of those who left in the early years of the programme are now returning to the classroom.
Of all the teachers who have ever trained with us since 2003, 60% are teaching today and the majority of them remain in schools serving low income communities.
And, once qualified, research has shown Teach First alumni are seven times more likely to progress to leadership positions in schools during their career.
As head teachers come back from Easter holidays and make plans for their staffing for next year, we stand ready to help those schools serving communities most in need. Primary schools are in the front line tackling educational inequality and creating opportunity for all our young people. If we don’t get it right from the start, it makes it so much harder later on.
As it has for many schools already, it might just turn out to be a game changer.