Why Teach First Could Be Bad For Your Career

With all the promise on their website of future opportunities with blue-chip companies, you’d be forgiven for thinking there existed some hard evidence to back up Teach First’s promotional message.

We looked for such evidence on their website, of course, but did we find any?

On TF’s website you can read a lot about career development. Recruits are given Ambassador “support and advice to help you gain the skills, knowledge and network of contacts you will need for long-term career development…delivered through a series of events, online resources and mentoring opportunities available to you predominately during the second year of the Leadership Development programme.”

And “starting with Summer Project opportunities in your first summer on the Leadership Development programme – many of them with high-profile employers including some of our prestigious supporters – the Teach First Ambassador team will help you develop the skills, experience and contacts you need to take your career forward.”

We learnt also that “this is an excellent opportunity for you to undertake a short project of value to the participating organisation, working either individually or in teams. The project could involve a piece of analysis, research, ideas generation or the planning of an event and should last up to three weeks during August. As an alternative, you may shadow a relevant member of staff for a week. Whilst the main objective is to ensure that participating organisations achieve their project goals, we hope that doing a project will increase your familiarity with an organisation, its employees and the broader industry, for the benefit of your pupils and your long-term career.”

Okay. A lot about delivery, training and doing phoney projects but what about a job? On the website a further look reveals ‘Career Mentoring’ with a coach and “the opportunity to link up with an ambassador or professional who can impart their knowledge and careers advice.”

Yet more training and listening to others imparting their wisdom but any jobs? No, and further investigation of the website reveals yet more training sessions: the very Orwellian sounding ‘Transitioning On Exploration Evenings’ where “you will gain a deeper understanding of other career sectors, some useful contacts and perhaps some inspiration for your next move” or ‘Teaching On Exploration Evenings’ where you’ll “open your eyes to the various routes available (in education), whether this is school leadership, pastoral or becoming a subject specialist”

And it wouldn’t be a management consultant’s company without ‘Networking Dinners’. Other training sessions (where are the jobs?!) include ‘How to Succeed in a Teaching Interview’, ‘Career One-to-One meetings’ and there are the various ‘Online resources’ available to TF recruits.

There are then no guarantees of any job after TF – just a lot of training and schmoozing. The situation in America is that 60% of Teach for America recruits stay on into a third year. There appears to be no research as to what happens to the remaining 40% and in particular whether TFA actually made any impact on their employability. Indeed, it is hard to see how that could be ascertained either way. The TF data is just as limited. Perhaps they will commission some further ‘independent’ research of their own. We wait and see.

Even if TF could conjure up some data to show how well TF recruits do after they leave, would-be TF recruits should think again about signing up for another reason: the alternative teacher certification (ATC) that TF peddle isn’t quite what it seems.

For like other forms of of ATC such as the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) there is evidence that TF’s qualification is also not recognised outside of England and Wales, and this has a number of implications.

Firstly, if you ever fancy taking your newly earned QTS off to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and even up the road to Scotland then you can’t as all those countries say the GTP – and, in Australia for now, Teach First’s training programme – are totally inadequate preparation for the classroom and are not recognised as a result.

A more serious but related problem with TF’s 15-week ATC is that a TF recruit who wishes to remain in teaching may be stuck with TF’s QTS unless they can spare the time to do some further retraining to catch up. The QTS offered by TF doesn’t appear to be enough.

We think it interesting, however, that on this very matter Teach First and its training providers seem to disagree as to what exactly it is they are delivering. At some universities (e.g. Canterbury Christ Church) they award only QTS, at others (e.g. Uni of Leicester, Uni of Sunderland) they talk about PGCEs and QTS. Teach First itself seemed to believe both QTS and a PGCE were awarded to Teach First recruits. Yet as far as we know, QTS is awarded to TF recruits; the PGCE is a year full-time or 2 part time.

There is also the question of whether joining an increasingly popular scheme such as TF actually makes total sense if you hope it’ll buff up the CV. The first recruits to cotton on to the scheme may have benefitted but given the fact that greater popularity brings greater competition surely there is – and will be – less and less kudos attached to TF recruits.

We say, then, that all of this should make final year undergrads think twice about joining TF: the lack of evidence for any significant improvement in blue-chip employability, the widely held disdain across the English-speaking world for alternative forms of teaching certification like Teach First, potential problems faced by those looking to take their TF QTS further, and the intense competition any TF recruit will undoubtedly face when looking for work once on the outside.

So just to repeat: there is yet no proof that all that training and networking TF recruits undergo actually makes any positive difference whatsoever to the chances of landing a lucrative corporate job after the two years is up; that those who wish to remain teachers after TF is over are much better off sticking to the year-long PGCE; and that ultimately, the teaching authorities of this world still believe the best teachers are those who have been properly and thoroughly trained.

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