It’s an exciting time at Teach First. Since I joined last autumn we’ve started developing our new strategy. We’re exploring how we play our part in tackling educational inequality, how we support schools in greatest need, and how we deliver value for money.
The most important question - and in many ways the hardest - is to ask what Teach First is best placed to do. What’s our unique contribution among the many fantastic organisations and people also dedicated to these goals? Inequality is big; there is no end to what could be done or what should be done. This makes it all too easy to spread our efforts too wide. What should we do? How should we evolve?
Whilst our strategy review is not complete, we know our expertise is developing great teachers and leaders, in education and beyond. We’ve decided this will be our key focus. We’re an organisation that builds teaching and leadership capacity, and connects great people to where they can make the biggest difference.
Opportunity, access and innovation all begin in the classroom. And the scale at which we work on this through our Leadership Development Programme is significant – supporting hundreds of thousands of young people every day. It is this contact, between our participants and ambassadors and young people that we must focus on.
Unfortunately, this increased focus means stopping delivering some programmes. We’ve therefore decided to phase out our Futures and Oxbridge programmes by summer 2019, while our work on innovation in education will evolve, replacing the current Innovation Unit with a new entrepreneur-led network.
There are other organisations doing similar work in each of these areas, and we will ensure that our partners, the schools and pupils we work with, and our community continue to get opportunities with them. We’ll also be sharing the rich learning and expertise we have developed on these successful programmes.
Our Futures and Oxbridge programmes supported sixth form pupils to explore and improve their university and post-school options. They have made a huge difference to thousands of young people. We are proud of every single Futures pupil, and the incredible support each of their mentors has given to inspire them. Our Futures pupils have been supported to go on to do incredible things, with some graduating university to become a teacher through Teach First.
We remain unequivocal in helping more young people realise their potential. With our increased concentration on developing teachers and leaders, we know the best way we can do this is to focus on our Careers and Employability Leadership Programme. This year-long training helps a lead teacher improve careers and post-school provision across their whole school, so all pupils can get the support and advice they need to access a variety of paths in life.
Over the last five years, our Innovation Unit has achieved great success supporting the creation of new social enterprises in education. Collectively, the organisations we’ve supported reached over half a million pupils last year. They now work in 2,000 schools. More than fifty pilot ventures have been developed and many of those we’ve helped are significant forces for good in education.
So much so, that in recent years, these organisations have gradually taken more and more of a lead. They themselves are creating huge change, directly with schools and students, but also in supporting one another. We therefore feel now is the right time to evolve our focus on innovation, with the entrepreneurs themselves being supported to take ownership of our innovation network. So, we will shift from direct incubation and brokering, to facilitating this community of talented entrepreneurs. We will end the direct work of the Innovation Unit, including the Innovation Series, Booster, the Innovation Award and Partnerships. Instead, in this new phase, we will support our peer-led network which enables these established organisations to connect and learn from one another, building on their success.
Innovation has always been core to Teach First’s approach. We’ll never stop exploring how we ourselves can innovate to improve outcomes for young people. We will embed what we’ve learnt from our
innovation work within our own processes, and in our training of teachers, so the innovation spirit remains integral to what we do.
Throughout this change we will keep all our commitments. Every young person already on the Futures and Oxbridge programmes will be fully supported until they finish in Summer 2019. And we’ll continue with our current work to select and train Futures mentors for this June, ready to start mentoring for the next year from August 2018.
Likewise, we will fulfil our commitments to our current Innovation Partners, and our recent fantastic 2018 Award Winners will be fully supported as planned. We’ll also extend our support to last year’s Innovation Award winners and Innovation Partners to August 2019, to ensure they’re set up for success.
Our full strategy will launch later this year, but we wanted to make sure any school or member of our community that needs to had time to make alternative arrangements. We will also be developing exciting new opportunities for supporters and volunteers to help our work and our pupils, in line with our new strategy.
We’re excited to build on our expertise of developing teachers and leaders. This increased focus means we’ll be able to invest in new opportunities and improvements, and we look forward to sharing more of our plans, and how you can get involved, in the coming months.
CEO, Teach First