Teach First

About the Project

This project is one of the 2012 WISE Awards finalists.

In the UK, the link between low family income and poor educational attainment is greater than in almost any other developed country. This is one of the country’s most destructive and pervasive social injustices, perpetuating inequality and confining thousands of young people to a lifetime of unrealized potential.

Teach First believes that all children should have equal opportunities and the chance to realize their own potential. It works towards the vision that no child’s educational success is limited by their socio-economic background. Excellent teaching in schools is the strongest change factor in enabling children from low-income backgrounds to succeed.

Context and Issue

Teach First operates on the premise that children from low-income communities experience greater barriers to success than those from more affluent families. In Britain today, children from low-income households are significantly less likely to achieve at school, go on to university or get a good job: e.g. the reading skills of children from disadvantaged families are, on average, more than two years behind those of pupils from wealthier backgrounds, a gap twice as wide as most other developed countries.

Teach First harnesses the drive and enthusiasm of committed individuals to provide inspirational teaching in schools in challenging circumstances. It places them to teach and lead in schools in areas of high poverty where only 4 percent of newly qualified teachers would ever consider teaching. The bespoke Leadership Development Program provides these teachers with the support they need to have a profound impact on the educational outcomes of their pupils.

Solution and Impact

By recruiting, placing and training exceptional teachers across England and Wales, Teach First is giving thousands of children access to a better, more consistent education. It is also creating a movement of leaders with a lifelong commitment to addressing educational disadvantage both inside and outside the classroom.

Teach First teachers undertake the highly challenging two-year Leadership Development Program, which is is central to the success of developing leaders who are actively committed to effecting change in education. The Program combines working, training and qualifying as a teacher, with leadership development instruction and coaching. It focuses on developing teachers as exceptional leaders of learning, as well as giving them skills and knowledge around leading organizations and people. The project works with an extensive range of education and business partners to deliver the Program, which enables the teachers to have a profound impact on pupil achievement and aspirations. 

The project’s main impact include: 

  • Improving educational outcomes – schools which recruit Teach First teachers have seen their GCSE results improve at twice the rate of schools nationally.
  • Outstanding training provision – the quality of the training was rated “outstanding” by Ofsted in all 44 categories assessed in 2011.
  • Raising the status of teaching – Teach First is now the UK’s largest graduate employer and the third most prestigious, with 10 percent of Oxford and Cambridge graduates applying to the Program in 2013.

Future Developments

Teach First’s vision is that no child’s educational success is limited by their socio-economic background. In 2012, it launched the Fair Education Impact Goals which set out the national changes necessary to progress towards the project’s vision in terms of:

  • Raising the attainment of pupils in schools serving low-income communities 
  • Enabling them to reach their high aspirations 
  • Opening up access to opportunities for all young people after finishing their GCSEs 

These goals need to be addressed across the education system and society. Over the next 10 years, Teach First will focus its activity in the areas where it can make the biggest difference to achieving them and work in partnership with a range of organizations that will have the greatest impact. Beyond the classroom, it works with ambassadors (alumni) to support them in driving change in classrooms, schools and wider society. In 10 years’ time, this community will include more than 15,000 teachers, social entrepreneurs, policy makers and industry leaders.

April 26, 2012 (last update 12-30-2020)