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Teach First Training Programme delivers impact for young people, research finds

By Karl Edwards, Director of Strategy and Impact, July 2023

Teach First exists to support every young person in our country to fulfil their potential – a mission we have relentlessly pursued for 20 years. Key to this is keeping a focus on the impact we make.

Research carried out six years ago by Allen and Allnutt (2017) highlighted Teach First’s positive impact on young people’s attainment in schools partnering with us.

Since then, much has changed in the education sector, available data and the world around us. So, we decided it was the right time to look again at our impact.

We commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to conduct a “quasi-experimental design impact assessment” of our Training Programme using the most rigorous data and methodologies available and, vitally, to provide us with feedback on how we’re doing.

The outcome is two NFER impact reports:

The Department for Education has welcomed the reports’ findings, saying: “Teach First is an excellent route into a fulfilling career in the education sector and it is great to see the sustained impact that Teach First teachers have had improving attainment. Raising standards in our schools is a key priority for the Government and we are grateful for the dedication of our hard-working teachers in continuing to deliver good pupil outcomes.”

What do they tell us?

They tell us a lot. Below are the key findings.

Schools and young people

The research revealed that “GCSE attainment in secondary school departments that recruited a Teach First trainee was statistically significantly higher than in similar departments in comparison schools”.

It shows our teachers have a positive impact on young people’s attainment from very early in their careers, helping them to get the grades they need to unlock their future. This difference is seen when using much larger sample sizes than previous studies and is testament to the hard work of teachers and the colleagues with whom they work in schools across the country.

The report also highlighted that schools with Teach First trainees subsequently see a rise in the proportion of students who go on to attend university, and a greater proportion of pupils moving on to Russell Group universities. It is an increase not seen in comparable schools.

The achievements of young people, just like these findings on those pupils reaching top universities, are always the result of their hard work, their families, teachers and a whole community of organisations. The research highlights a pre-existing trend in increased university access that continues and grows as schools begin to partner with us. We’re proud to be part of that progress in opening opportunities to more young people from low-income backgrounds.

Progression and retention of teachers

One of our aims is to provide schools serving disadvantaged communities with a leadership pipeline by supporting trainees to make rapid progression into leadership positions. The research found Teach First trained teachers are 12 times more likely to move into senior leadership positions within three years compared to teachers who trained at university. And they are three times more likely to become senior leaders than similar teachers from school-based training routes.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the research found there is a “trade-off” associated with Teach First recruitment of top graduates, many of whom would not otherwise have gone into teaching. They were less likely to stay in teaching after their NQT year than teachers trained through other routes. For example, the retention rate of Teach First teachers in the year after NQT was 18 percentage points lower than for similar teachers who trained through the higher education route.

However, the report found 94% of Teach First teachers progressed from the first to the second year of the programme compared to 68% of trainees from higher education routes and 80% of trainees from school-based and employment-based routes.

We want a growing proportion of the people who we recruit to feel able to spend more of their working life leading schools. Recent signs are promising. The research found that the proportion of Teach First teachers who began their training in 2017/18 and were still in teaching one year after their NQT year was four percentage points higher than for teachers who began their training in the same year on a higher education route.

NFER also highlighted that when Teach First teachers move, they remained “committed to the Teach First mission” and were more likely than similar teachers from other training routes to seek out another school serving a low-income community.

Movement of teachers can be tough on individual schools and we are committed to working with schools in a long-term and sustainable way. It is a confirmation of our vision in action to see our teachers seeking out the schools that need them the most.

Tackling inequity

The Impact of the Teach First Training Programme on Schools report said Teach First works with schools that serve pupils in the most disadvantaged communities in the country, and “teacher workforce challenges were considerably more acute in Teach First schools than other schools in England”.

It highlighted that these schools were more likely than others to have had a teaching vacancy, and to be among the schools with the highest per-pupil expenditure on supply staff. This is confirmation that we are targeting our support at the schools which need it most.

We have always worked in partnership with the education sector and other routes to teaching and the report highlighted that schools typically work with Teach First alongside other sources of new teachers. Our aim is always to offer something different, in recognition that each route to teaching brings different strengths to a school.

What next?

Overall, we are very pleased with the impact the research shows that we, and the community we are part of, are continuing to have in schools. There is always more research and learning to be done, and these impact reports by NFER will help us focus future research and development on specific areas. These include how we can understand impact in primary schools better, and how we can continue to strike the right balance of long-term retention with bringing the top new talent into teaching in schools in disadvantaged communities.

At Teach First, we are very aware that attainment is not the single success measure for our pupils or for our schools. Grades are often the first step to opening opportunities but are far from the full picture. There is more work to be done on how we review our impact on the destinations gap.

Thank you to the team at NFER, especially Jack Worth and Dawson McLean, and my excellent colleagues, past and present, here at Teach First who have helped to work on this critical impact evaluation.

If you have any questions about these reports or our impact work, please get in touch at:

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