Teach First Public Relations Week

Good to see that the ‘charity’ known as Teach First is hard at work.

Now that they’ve got their claws into primary school kids they’re obviously not going to waste any opportunity to spread their message of bringing joy and light into the lives of the poor.

The occasion as part of Teach First PR Circus Week saw rich City types swapping their braces for a board rubber and pen for the day.

You would think that this would be all about teaching the young kids a thing or two about business or life in the world of the rich.

But to one participant, a partner at a big accountancy firm, the day was about scouting for future talent. Talent that is still only 8 or 9 years old.

To City worker Ms Mercer, “Most businesses are thinking smartly about where they are getting their talent from, rather than just going to the top universities. There are a lot of very bright young people from more deprived backgrounds who haven’t thought about the opportunities they might have. Many could be very successful in the city.”

Admittedly, she then went on to say that “Good teachers are so important but they can’t do it on their own. They need the support of the community, parents and business.”

But with charities like Teach First around, who needs enemies.

It is also good to see that former McKinsey consultant and founder and CEO of Teach First, Mr. Wigdortz, was on hand to remind us that “Studies show that socio-economic status still determines whether children in the UK fulfill their potential.”

But we’ve been here before. Aside from the fact that ‘potential’ could mean almost anything, the line about the direct causal link between poverty and educational underachievement is simply not true.

Studies have been unable to identify the most crucial factor(s) contributing to educational success. For one thing, our own research has revealed that only a couple of schools on special measures -one key indicator of educational underachievement – are on Teach First’s list of impoverished schools. And if there was such a direct link and it could be demonstrated without exception, you just wouldn’t find poor kids passing examinations or at university. But that isn’t true either.

If it was really about raising levels of achievement, what we think our Brett should really be doing for these kids is finding fully trained and experienced teachers who are fully committed to teaching them for more than one day when the cameras and journalists are around and for longer than the two years his TF recruits sign up for.

A PR exercise is one thing. Making a lasting difference is another. And facilitating the recruitment of underqualified, inexperienced graduates to do the work that a well-trained, experienced but more expensive teacher should be doing is clearly muddleheaded if not tragic.

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