Teach First

By Barbara Hibbert

What is Teach First?

Teach First’s vision is that no child’s educational success should be limited by their socio-economic background and it places highly motivated graduates in schools in areas of greatest need.    

Teach First differs from other routes into teaching in a number of ways. It describes itself as a ‘two-year leadership development programme’ rather than a teacher training programme and it recruits on a rolling basis, so it is worth getting an application in early, especially for popular subjects like history. The recruitment year stars in June for the September of the following year, so, for example, you can first apply in June 2016 to start the programme in July 2017. It is also possible to apply for a deferred place.

Who is eligible for the Teach First Programme?

Applicants for history need to have or expect to receive: a 2:1 or above in history or a related subject, 300 UCAS points (or equivalent, excluding General Studies), grade C or above in maths and English GCSE (or equivalent) and flexibility to work in any of the Teach First locations.  

Successful candidates (known as ‘participants’) for history are allocated to a school with pupils from low-income communities, in one of the six local areas in England in which Teach First offers the subject. These are currently the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East and West Midlands, London and the South East. Participants commit to teaching for two years in their allocated school. This link shows you where the majority of Teach First Schools are located: https://graduates.teachfirst.org.uk/leadership-development-programme/where-you-could-work In the first year participants teach an 80% timetable and are paid as an unqualified teacher, while working towards achieving a PGCE and QTS. In the second year there is the option of working towards a master’s degree.

It is worth being aware that as you apply for the programme rather than a subject you could be allocated to another subject when history is full, or if you have an A grade at A level in a shortage subject such as maths.

How does the application process work?

The application and selection process is described here: https://graduates.teachfirst.org.uk/application-selection/selection-process

The first stage of the application process involves completing an on-line form which checks your qualifications and assesses you against various competencies. This application is reviewed by two separate members of the recruitment team, and if you are successful at this stage you are invited to attend an Assessment Centre. This is a rigorous one day process, involving a competency based interview (one-on-one) , a case study (group exercise followed by one-on-one self-evaluation) and a sample teaching lesson (a pre-prepared seven minute lesson followed by a written self-evaluation).

You will hear very quickly if you have been successful at the Assessment Centre and you will be made an offer of a place, conditional on passing the QTS professional skills test, provision of a satisfactory reference and successful completion of a Curriculum Knowledge Audit (CKA). The CKA is submitted to a tutor at one of the university partners, who may accept it outright, ask for a review or reject it. If your CKA is rejected, the offer of a place is withdrawn, so you need to be aware that this is an important part of the process.

What happens then?

You will be asked to prepare yourself for the Summer Institute in various ways. You will have to complete Participant Preparation Work (PPW) which involves spending time in a school, observing teaching and completing various reflective activities; you will have been given advice from the CKA reviewer on reading both about the pedagogy of history teaching and about filling in any gaps in your curriculum knowledge; one of the important pieces of advice will be to join the community of history teachers through the Historical Association.

Finally, at the beginning of the July before you start teaching you will attend the Summer Institute. Currently this involves spending four weeks in your local area, including time in the school you have been allocated, learning how to teach your subject and about how to fulfil the many other requirements of becoming a successful teacher in a challenging context, followed by two weeks in Leeds where the whole cohort come together for subject days, professional studies, conference days and an intercohort event where you can benefit from the experience of the previous year’s intake, and make contacts to help you throughout your first year and beyond. The Summer Institute isn’t paid, but accommodation and food are provided and some funds are available in cases of hardship.


What do previous participants have to say about the programme?

Rosie, 2013

I was attracted to the fast paced and ‘on the go’ nature of the Teach First route. It was clear there would be no messing around  - 6 weeks training and then straight into a classroom. For me this classroom was very far from home: from London to a school in special measures on the outskirts of Leeds. It would be wrong to say I was not scared by this prospect but if I think back I realise I was not given much time to dwell on this - much to the credit of the Teach First programme. In short, Teach First ensured that I was supported, encouraged and challenged in every possible way throughout the year and beyond – the relationships you build with professional and subject mentors are not yearlong, they are genuine and long term – you can’t ask for more than that! 

James, 2015

I was attracted to Teach First for two main reasons. Firstly, as a route into teaching, there are a lot of strengths of the programme. I loved the idea of getting stuck straight in and learning my trade in the classroom. The first few months were incredibly difficult, but I definitely think I've learnt more at this stage of my career that I would have in any other programme. The fact that you're just based in one school is also great as it allows you to build lasting relationships with the students and with colleagues. Getting paid to train is also a benefit; I would have been priced out of going down the PGCE route. Secondly, having come from a challenging state school myself, I was drawn to the idea of education being a tool to tackle socio-economic disadvantage. Whilst the job can be difficult it's very rewarding and I couldn't see myself doing anything else now.

Previous page     Next page