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Teach First calls for funding to reduce teachers’ timetables in schools serving disadvantaged communities

New research shows that parents of pupils eligible for Free School Meals are more likely to have concerns about their children’s learning during the pandemic.

  • Call comes as part of a manifesto released by the charity aimed at tackling education inequality 
  • Polling reveals almost half of parents (44%) of pupils eligible for Free School Meals are extremely or somewhat worried about lost learning during the pandemic 
  • Majority of parents (63%) believe teachers are not paid fairly

Education charity Teach First has called for extra funding for a pilot to reduce teachers’ timetables in schools serving disadvantaged communities. It comes as the charity publishes new research revealing that parents of pupils eligible for Free School Meals are more likely to have concerns about their children’s learning during the pandemic. 

Polling* reveals almost half of those parents (44%) said they are extremely or somewhat worried about how much school time their child lost during the pandemic, compared to just 34% of parents whose children aren’t eligible for Free School Meals. This divide is clear between regions too – with all parents in the West Midlands more likely (49%) to be extremely or somewhat worried than those in London (33%). 

Teach First argues that reducing timetabled hours for teachers in schools serving the most disadvantaged areas – who face unique classroom challenges – would allow them to spend more time on planning high quality lessons and professional development, which would improve pupil outcomes.  

The charity is therefore calling on the Government to provide funding for a pilot to reduce teachers’ timetabled hours by 20% in 1% of the most disadvantaged schools, with scope to expand this if successful. Teach First have worked with economist Luke Sibieta on a proposal which found that the policy could cost approximately £30m per year to recruit the additional teachers needed. 

In a separate survey with teachers**, the second most popular choice (52%) when asked what would make the greatest difference to support students was funding to reduce teachers’ timetables. This followed more funding for and access to social and mental health services (61%).  

The case for targeting funding to areas that need it most is further supported by the regional disparities found in how often pupils needed to self-isolate from school during the pandemic. Parents in the North West four times more likely (25%) to say their children isolated 3 times or more times compared to the East of England (6%)*. Similarly, pupils in the South East (52%) were twice as likely as to have avoided self-isolation compared with those in the North West (26%).  

This comes as Teach First publish a new education manifesto – developed in consultation with teachers, school leaders and business leaders – featuring a raft of policy recommendations designed to give every child a fighting chance to achieve their potential. Proposals include:

  • A call for a significant increase in funding for schools serving disadvantaged communities over the next five years to address growing inequality 
  • The government should provide funding for schools who choose to employ specialist staff to support with pastoral care, additional needs, and family engagement 
  • Guaranteeing every pupil’s household safe access to the internet and a digital device 
  • Measures to diversify school leadership teams and increase inclusive teaching 
  • Significantly enhanced careers education and work experience 

The charity also calls for a boost to the Covid-19 recovery package, including teachers’ pay - particularly for those working in disadvantaged areas, to encourage more great teachers to go where they’re needed the most. This comes as the majority of parents* (63%) indicated they believe that teachers are not paid fairly for the amount of work they do – particularly in light of the government’s announcement of a pay freeze for teachers in 2020/21.   

Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First, said: 

“Inequality has been baked into our education system for too long and we need sustained action to tackle it. The pandemic has made the situation worse: affecting some pupils far harder than others.  

“But any plan for the future of education must go beyond ‘recovery’ because where we were before wasn’t good enough. We have an opportunity to break the historical cycle of inequality. The policies we’ve put forward would help schools give every young person a fighting chance to get the best possible education. We urge the government to take on board these suggestions to ensure we don’t leave a generation of pupils behind.” 

Ann Donaghy, Head Teacher of Teach First partner school Noel-Baker Academy in Derby, said:  

“With Covid leaving pupils in disadvantaged communities even further behind in their education, schools like mine have had to rethink how best to support their recovery.  

“Knowing that great teachers are truly the best resource for this, our reduced teachers’ timetable made a huge difference during this really difficult time. It has aided our staff’s wellbeing, given them time to plan their lessons, focus on progression and fully support our pupils.  

“However, schools in disadvantaged areas can’t always make these changes alone – we need ring-fenced funding to do so. The Government needs to empower us to invest in our own repair and growth. Only then will we be able to help every pupil thrive in a post-pandemic world.” 




Notes to Editor 

*Research was conducted by Parent Ping during the week of the 27th of July. At least 1,423 parents answered each question. Results are found in full here (INSERT EXCEL COPY). 

**Research was conducted by Teacher Tapp on 8 April 2021, sampling 6559 teachers, with results found in full here (INSERT EXCEL COPY). 

About Parent Ping 

Parent Ping is a daily survey app for parents that helps you learn how other parents are dealing with life. 

About Teacher Tapp 

Teacher Tapp is a daily survey app that asks over 8,000 teachers questions each day and reweights the results to make them representative. 

About Teach First 

Teach First is an education charity with a mission to build a fair education for all. Through a range of school leadership programmes the charity supports teachers, leaders and schools facing the biggest challenges, serving the most disadvantaged communities. 

The charity has now recruited over 18,000 teachers and leaders, has over 85 head teachers in their alumni and has supported over a million pupils. 

Those on the Training Programme commit to a minimum of two years at their partner school, where they teach a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) timetable; more than half stay on for a third year. Over 62% of all the teachers who’ve completed training since 2003 are currently teaching. The charity supports whole leadership teams through Leading Together. Develops individuals to become effective leaders through Middle Leader, Senior Leader and Headship programmes that include a National Professional Qualification. And provides Career Leader training to develop a long-term, school-wide careers strategy to improve student opportunities after school. 

Teach First currently operates in Wales and in all regions across England: London, West Midlands, East Midlands, Yorkshire the Humber, North West, North East, South East, South Coast, South West and the East of England. 


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