Jo Jones is the headteacher at Story Wood School in Birmingham. Here she talks about the school's positive experiences with taking on Teach First participants...
Our school has had a very positive and productive working relationship with Teach First for the last five or six years. We’ve taken on trainee teachers in all key stages from EYFS to KS2 across three schools, and they’ve made great progress.
Employing Teach First trainees was a new approach for our organisation at the time. As a headteacher, I had some initial concerns at the potential risks for our school – primarily that they might only be with us for the length of the two-year programme. However, I’ve since found that by developing and nurturing them it’s been possible to create an environment that encourages our trainees to remain not only in teaching, but in our school.
We first discovered Teach First when supporting a school in a very difficult situation which, as a result, found recruitment a real challenge. We decided to look at their teacher training programme with the intention of ‘growing our own’ new and vibrant talent, from which we could then potentially develop into our middle and senior leaders of the future.
In our experience, the trainees arrive having already achieved a high academic standard, with excellent spoken and written skills. The fact that they’ve been through an extremely rigorous recruitment process to get to this point means that they’re also very resilient, which is crucial in today’s education system. Our school has benefited immensely from the enthusiasm and teaching quality of these new teachers.
Having witnessed first-hand the robust recruitment process at Teach First’s new Development Centre this year, it’s clear to me that applicants are really put through their paces to ensure that they have the commitment, skills and mindset required to succeed in their roles.
Having witnessed first-hand the robust recruitment process at Teach First’s new Development Centre this year, it’s clear to me that applicants are really put through their paces to ensure that they have the commitment, skills and mindset required to succeed in their roles.The Development Centre explores their aptitude and abilities through a range of tasks and activities, including an interview, a group task and a taught lesson. These allow the trainees to showcase their abilities, and ongoing feedback enables them to develop their skills further during the day. A challenging and varied day gives the best suited candidates the opportunity to shine through, demonstrating their suitability for both the course and a career in teaching.
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. For example, trainees are in school with their class much more, with a gradual increase in contact time over the course of the programme. Teach First also invest time in matching the trainees to the most suitable school, which is crucial for bringing in the right people. As a school, we’ve always felt actively involved during this process, and it’s reassuring to know our trainees will bring the wider interests we’re looking for to support our school community, such as sport, science or humanities.
The training programme itself prepares the teachers well for the demands of teaching, and further develops their resilience. From experience, the trainees are hardworking, eager to learn and committed to teaching.
I would definitely recommend the Teach First route into teaching for both individuals and headteachers.
I would definitely recommend the Teach First route into teaching for both individuals and headteachers. Any school that’s able to support their trainees in the earlier months of their careers can reap the huge long-term benefits of these high achieving teachers. And if you can nurture them well over time, they may just go on to become your school leaders of tomorrow.