Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Teach First


Teach First is an independent charity with a mission to address educational disadvantage by transforming exceptional graduates into effective, inspirational teachers and leaders in all fields. We have drawn on our own experiences of attracting, training and retaining teachers for this submission.

Executive Summary

(i)Teach First has found that having an established presence on university campuses, and a targeted recruitment campaign, is key to identifying and attracting high quality applicants.

(ii)Teach First has found that a rigorous, competency-based selection process ensures recruitment of high quality participants1 for the two-year Leadership Development Programme (LDP).

(iii)Teach First takes a good deal of care over selection and makes sure that a strong support system is in place for a participant before that individual is allowed to take sole control of a classroom. It is these factors that make the LDP effective and ensures the pupils in our partner schools receive the high-quality educational experience they deserve.

There are four key aspects to the training that Teach First provides, which we think are vital to developing participants as effective teachers and leaders, helping to ensure that they successfully complete the LDP:

Working to ensure that the best quality candidates are attracted to the teaching profession.

Focusing on supporting our teachers to raise pupil achievement, aspiration and access to opportunities.

A strong mentoring provision.

Partnership with ITT training partners.

(iv)We believe that Teach First, alongside government initiatives, has contributed to increasing the overall status of teaching, making it a career of choice for many of the UK’s graduates. Further work and investment is needed to maintain and further elevate the status of teachers if the profession is to attract and retain the high quality trainees on the scale that is needed to raise the quality of education throughout the country.

(v)It is more likely that good teachers will be retained within the UK education system if teachers have the opportunity to continually develop their professional practice, are able to make a visible impact in their role and have a clear and manageable career pathway in place.

What evidence is available to help identify the sorts of applicants who become the most effective teachers, and what are the strategies known to be effective in attracting these applicants?

1. Teach First is currently the third largest graduate recruiter in the UK, number seven in the Times Top 100 list of graduate recruiters and was also named Graduate Employer of Choice in the Public Sector this year. Teach First’s LDP attracts large number of applicants, for example in 2010–11 over 5,000 graduates applied for the 787 places in the 2011 cohort.

2. This year Teach First and its university training partners had their first ever full Ofsted inspection. The teacher training provision was rated “Outstanding” in all categories assessed. In particular the Ofsted report focused on the high quality of the Teach First participants, stating: “In all regions, the quality of the participants is exceptional, particularly their personal characteristics, personal attributes, self-motivation, critical reflection and their commitment to raising the aspirations and achievements of the students in their schools and addressing educational disadvantage.”2

3. Much of our appeal to graduates is derived from our alternative nature, our high entry requirements and our focus on leadership development. With a mission to address educational disadvantage, we are, at heart, a movement for change and, in that sense, quite distinct from other training routes.

Criteria for effective teachers

4. The Government’s own recent proposals for enhancing the selection of trainee teachers rightly reflect the importance of considering both the academic and personal qualities of individuals. Teach First’s own very high standards for acceptance onto the LDP include a 2.1 degree or above, and 300 UCAS points.

5. As well as meeting certain academic criteria, Teach First candidates are assessed against eight areas of competency which demonstrate a candidate’s potential to be an effective and inspirational teacher in a school in challenging circumstances. Those characteristics are:

Humility, respect and empathy.




Planning and organising.





6. We are the only teacher training route that has an established presence on university campuses to attract trainees. It is on campus, at a wide range of universities, that students get the chance to learn what teaching in a school in challenging circumstances will involve. In this way, we are able to attract those high-calibre applicants who are well-suited to such an opportunity.

7. We visit over 60 UK universities and work with a diverse range of academics and student societies to find the right graduates to join Teach First. The attraction team works year round on our target campuses, building the brand and spreading the message of the impact graduates can have on the programme. Recent research from High Fliers found that 82% of final year job hunters from 30 universities, seeking employment in all sectors, had heard of Teach First.3

8. For graduates, Teach First is an attractive career proposition on two fronts: the LDP provides the opportunity to develop key skills (which enhance their employability both within education and in other sectors) and have an impact on the attainment, aspirations and access to opportunity of those pupils who stand to benefit the most from a great teacher.


9. The selection process is rigorous as we need to ensure we hire the right people for the programme. Candidates complete an online application form and the Selection team screens each application twice, ensuring it is given the correct level of attention. The form includes Positions of Responsibility and Competency Questions.

10. The second part of the Selection process is the Assessment Centre. This is a one-day event that incorporates a 30 minute one-on-one interview, a group exercise, a seven minute sample teaching lesson and self-evaluation. During the course of the day, the applicant will meet four assessors (at least one of whom will have QTS and at least one is a Teach First ambassador),4 who will then make their hiring decisions at the end of the day. As part of the enrolment process candidates must pass the Subject Knowledge Audit, have their reference checked and complete one week’s school observation. Their position on the programme is still dependable on successful completion of the Summer Institute.

11. The Selection process is centred on the eight Teach First competencies outlined above. These competencies are a pivotal focus for all of the Selection team’s efforts and are thoroughly tested from the application form through to the end of the Assessment Centre. Teach First is a values-driven organisation and together with our competencies, we expect candidates to demonstrate these throughout the application process and thereafter.

Are there particular routes into teaching that are more likely to attract high quality trainees, and will the Government’s proposed changes to initial teacher training help to recruit these trainees?

12. Teach First welcomes the strong focus on the importance of high-quality teachers in the Initial Teacher Training strategy paper. There is plenty of evidence showing that teacher quality is central to improving both education systems and the life chances of children from low socio-economic backgrounds.

13. We believe that the government’s proposed changes towards a more highly competitive, funded, in school training programme, similar to Teach First, will attract more high quality trainees. From our own experience we have seen how this can be successful.

14. We invest in recruitment campaigns that appeal to a variety of motivations to encourage people to apply, and believe that this is a key to success. The Teach First University Campus Survey 2011, conducted online with 2,000 students studying at 31 leading universities in the UK, gives a useful insight in to the motivations of graduates applying for Teach First. When asked “what key message would attract you to apply to Teach First” the top four answers were:

Being considered to be an exceptional graduate.

The fact that the Teach First LDP is a two-year commitment, allowing them to keep their options open.

The desire to make a difference/working to address educational disadvantage/social inequality.

The prestige of the organisation.5

15. It is also worth noting that Teach First provides guaranteed employment for participants who obtain their PGCE “on the job” for a minimum of two years (provided they meet the requirements of the programme), at the same time as earning a salary. This is not only attractive to undergraduates but also to career changers and, indeed, recent Government thinking highlights the value that this group brings to the classroom.

16. The Government has recently set out proposals to offer more financial support to trainees with good degrees and maths and science specialists. Teach First’s recent STEM undergraduate study—focused on providing insight into why STEM graduates are not choosing careers in teaching and particular STEM sectors—points to further factors, important to graduates, that should be considered alongside financial incentives.

The key findings of the research included:

Motivations—”Personal satisfaction and fulfilment” was the most important characteristic influencing STEM graduates’ choice of their first job.

Influencers—74% of the STEM respondents stated that the opinions of friends/family/lecturers affect their career choices.

Competencies—STEM graduates are least confident in the competency areas of “leadership” and “self evaluation”. Confidence levels decrease significantly across all competencies in a high pressure situation such as a job interview. Graduates cited “extra-curricular activities” as the most influential factor outside of their degree in developing their competencies.6

17. Finally, we believe that Teach First alongside government initiatives, has contributed to increasing the overall status of teaching, making it a career of choice for many of the UK’s graduates. Further work and investment is needed to maintain and further elevate the status of teachers if the profession is to attract and retain the high quality trainees on the scale that is needed to raise the quality of education throughout the country.

What evidence is available about the type of training which produces the most effective teachers and will the Government’s proposed changes to initial teacher training, particularly the focus on more school-led training, help to increase the number of good teachers in our schools?

18. In collaboration with our university training partners, Teach First has been placing and training participants in schools since 2003 to great success. In July, the quality of the participants’ training—delivered by the network of higher education institutions with which we partner—was rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.7 As outlined in our response to question one, the inspectors highlighted the quality of Teach First’s participants. Additionally, they highlighted the high quality of the training participants received and the high expectations Teach First has of them, stating: “As a result of the quality of the training they receive and their own ability to critically reflect, the overwhelming majority of participants make outstanding progress against highly challenging expectations, meeting or exceeding these expectations.”

19. An evaluation by the University of Manchester, completed in November 2010, found a significant correlation between those schools in challenging circumstances which partnered with Teach First and improved pupil achievement. The key findings included:

A significant correlation between partnering with Teach First and improved pupil achievement, which appears one to two years following the first year of partnership with the school.

Observations that the teaching practices of Teach First teachers in their first year are good to excellent—in international comparisons they were generally on a par with or ahead of more experienced teachers.

Where significant, partnering with Teach First explains between 20% and 40% of the between-school variance in pupil performance at GCSE. This difference—the researchers estimate—equates to approximately a third of a GCSE per pupil per subject.8

20. It is important to note that Teach First’s LDP is highly supportive. It begins with an intensive six-week Summer Institute, which establishes their understanding of their role in the Teach First community, and prepares them to begin teaching in September.

21. Once in their school participants have a strong support network. In addition to school-based subject and professional mentors, participants are also visited and observed frequently by university-based, subject and professional tutors. Participants are also attached to a Teach First Leadership Development Officer (LDO) whose focus in the first year is on the “leadership of learning”; participants value this and the way it helps ensure their attention to the learning of the students they teach.

22. While we are a school-based route, we work closely with HEIs who provide a vital contribution to participants’ training. The recent Ofsted inspection report described the network of partner schools, university training providers and Teach First employees that deliver the LDP as a powerful and successful partnership.9

23. While we support a shift to more school-based and school-led training, we find that most schools welcome the partnership and support we bring and would not want to or be able to do it alone.

24. Teach First’s rigorous recruitment process provides a crucial filtering system, ensuring that the participants are of a high enough quality to be able to benefit from learning on the job. This may not be a suitable training approach for all.

25. The Government has also proposed that trainees on the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) are no longer supernumerary. If this leads to them taking on more responsibility earlier in their training then the necessary selection and support processes need to be applied so that individuals who have that capacity to learn “on the job” are recruited and that they are supported effectively.

26. Finally, a high percentage (66% in 2010–11 academic year) of Teach First participants are graded as “outstanding” when they are recommended for qualified teacher status (QTS). Teach First is exploring the links between teacher quality and impact in the classroom and has commissioned work to look at this in-depth over the next three years. However, on an on-going basis (and sitting alongside studies of the cost of teacher education) Teach First feels it would be helpful to have regular insights into the degree to which different training routes contribute to excellence in the classroom beyond QTS. This could involve the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) reviewing evidence from school inspections and publishing analyses and suggestions for improvement of initial teacher training (ITT).

What methods are best to assess and reward good teachers and are the Government’s draft revised standards for teachers a helpful tool?

27. Teach First’s Founder and CEO, Brett Wigdortz, was a member of the Teachers’ Standards Review Board. We reached out to participants, ambassadors, members of our Primary Advisory Group and representatives from our Regional Training Providers in order that their views were taken into account during the drafting of the revised standards.

28. It was felt that the feedback contributed to specific aspects of the new standards that could be construed as helpful to all teachers but particularly those working in challenging circumstances ie:

Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils.

Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils.

Additionally, there are two sub-points in the standards which put a more explicit responsibility on all teachers to recognise and address educational disadvantage. These relate to aspiration—”[Teachers must] set goals that stretch and challenge pupils of all backgrounds, abilities and dispositions”—and also attainment—”[Teachers must] have a secure understanding of how a range of factors can inhibit pupils’ ability to learn, and how best to overcome these.”

29. Furthermore, our feedback is reflected in the rationale for the way the new standards have been developed: ie more streamlined, clearly expressed and concerned with supporting the performance management of teachers and steering professional development.

30. Whilst the revised teaching standards are a useful tool, they must also be used effectively in schools to have real impact. For example:

Through strong leadership and management in schools based on observation of classes by senior leaders and an all-school focus on staff development.

Ensuring that there are strong performance measurement systems in place within a school.

Ensuring that both teachers and leaders know what success looks like and how to effectively collect evidence regarding performance.

31. Finally, reward for high performing teachers can come in many forms, depending on the motivations of the individuals, but are bound to include: opportunities for increased positions of responsibility/influence within the school; ability to share their knowledge with others within and beyond the school; as well as more traditional financial/development incentives.

What contribution does professional development make to the retention of good teachers?

32. It is more likely that good teachers will be retained within the UK education system if teachers have the opportunity to continually develop their professional practice, are able to make a visible impact in their role and have a clear and manageable career pathway in place.

33. A school showing genuine commitment to professional development is an attractive incentive for attracting and retaining high quality teachers and can instil a sense of being valued. As well as fostering a sense of career progression for the individual, benefits from CPD done well can lead to improvements in performance and contribute to a virtuous cycle of success and improvement. There is evidence of a plateau in teachers’ subject knowledge and pedagogical skill following initial training, which can be countered by CPD. It should be noted however that CPD comes in a very wide variety of formats and quality. Teach First believes that the most effective professional development has three critical components: top quality knowledge/input grounded in evidence, followed by a period of practice and embedding, followed by an evaluation and review phase. This is the model we adopt most commonly through the Teach On initiatives. “Teach On” is Teach First’s support network for those who have completed the two-year LDP and wish to continue leading improvements in challenging schools through teaching and leading.

34. Raising the status and quality of mentoring could transform the experience, retention, quality and effectiveness of all teachers. Advanced Skills Teachers, for example, who focus on developing the teaching and learning of their colleagues, can make a real impact. Becoming an Advanced Skills Teacher is also a viable alternative professional path to pursue instead of more formal school leadership roles. An equivalent role, focussed on mentoring, could do the same for this crucial area of school improvement.

35. In the second year of the Teach First LDP, there is a focus on mentoring our participants to develop their teaching practice through two key initiatives, supporting and challenging them to keep on making progress:

Classroom Leadership Framework—The participant’s LDO works with them to set ambitious visions and goals for the year, and then supports and challenges them to achieve these goals, ensuring that on-going barriers are revealed and addressed.

Leading Learning Groups—led by an experienced facilitator, these participant discussion groups help participants to reflect on their teaching practice, consider how they will improve it and seek advice from their peers.

36. At present, Teach First is also looking to understand how our model will sit alongside teaching schools’ vision for Initial Teacher Training. We believe that there may be good opportunities for our ambassadors, in working through alliances of teaching schools, to share continuing professional development activities and best practice across the teaching profession at school level.

How can we ensure that good teachers are retained where they are most needed, particularly in schools in challenging circumstances?

37. We have found that the following elements can influence retention of our participants and ambassadors within a school in challenging circumstances:

The leadership of a school.

Belief in the ethos of a school—in particular a focus and commitment to staff development and staff mentoring.

Clarity on how the individual is part of the forward progress and development of the school.

Opportunities to take on additional responsibility or positions of leadership (and creating the extra time, support and guidance for those who have been promoted to be able to adequately fulfil their new role).

Being mindful of the additional pastoral role that teachers play within a school—providing support formally and informally to pupils—and providing additional support for this, so it does not become overwhelming.

November 2011

1 A Teach First “participant” is a participant of the two-year Teach First Leadership Development Programme.

2 Ofsted, 2011.

3 High Fliers, 2011.

4 A Teach First “ambassador” is a graduate of the two-year Teach First Leadership Development Programme.

5 Teach First University Campus Survey, 2011.

6 Teach First/Trendence, 2011.

7 Ofsted, 2011.

8 University of Manchester, 2010.

9 Ofsted, 2011.

Prepared 30th April 2012