TEACH FIRST REPORT
Plea for exciting, innovative and engaging teaching
There are now over 1,000 Teach First graduates teaching in state schools.
Teach First recruits, trains, places and supports 500-600 exceptional teachers per year who can make a real difference in the most challenged secondary schools.
As of February 2009, 55% of Teach First Ambassadors remain in teaching, with 57% of these currently moving quickly into school leadership positions. Teach First is now seen as one of the most prestigious career options available in Britain. It is ranked 14th in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employer Survey this year – the highest ranking ever for a charity.
The Teach First report, Lessons from the Front 2009, just released, draws on quantitative and qualitative research of teachers’ experiences on the ground in some of the UK’s most challenging schools and a selection of the world’s leading businesses, to make a series of policy recommendations focused on enhancing the UK’s response to educational disadvantage.
All else equal, England’s poorest children still under perform in relation to their more affluent peers. Over 1000 teachers trained through Teach First are currently teaching across England to try to help change that reality. The report, which includes substantial responses to its proposals from Government and Opposition and business advisory firm Deloitte, urges policy makers to apply the principles great teachers use to be effective in their classrooms to every level of the education system by facilitating personalised, collaborative, explorative learning for teachers in an environment where all can succeed.
Core recommendations include:
A new system of school accountability, which removes the perverse incentives of the current GCSE A*-C rankings. This system would remove overall grades from report cards and requires schools to report their success with pupils taking academic and vocational routes separately. Locally-led plans to enhance currently unsatisfactory support for vocational aspirations. This recognises that vocational advice is a neglected area due to the knowledge and experience of most teachers – while 79% of teachers surveyed agreed that they were competent to advise on university choices, only 27% agreed or strongly agreed that they felt they could competently advise those wishing to pursue a vocation on what qualifications and subjects to choose.
Locally-agreed admissions policies to help all schools achieve a balanced intake. This should be accompanied by an open debate on the benefits and drawbacks of setting and streaming versus mixed ability classes, given the recognised impact of the ‘peer effect’ on pupil learning.
A Teachers’ Guarantee reiterating that all teachers should receive a minimum of 30 hours for continuing professional development (CPD), and stipulating that approximately a third of CPD time spent on ‘personal continuing professional development’. The report also suggests the development of a voluntary ‘Annual Enquiry Entitlement’ of the sort used by leading businesses such as Google and Amazon.
The development of more innovative ways for teachers and other professionals to work together, both in continuing professional development and career pathways. These could include collaboration within schools through ‘white space’ time, through ‘teacher-swaps’ between schools, and through the creation of a Flexible Teachers scheme – which would facilitate teachers to work part time across a range of schools or in school and another sector. This is yet another report that stresses the importance of leadership in schools but also the quality of teachers and teaching in the classroom. Attracting and retaining the best people in the teaching profession is of paramount importance.
The experience of Teach First suggests also that more top graduates may be attracted to teaching by the prospect of a career in education (with the wider and more transferable training that brings with it) than are currently by the prospect of a career exclusively in teaching itself. Significantly, it also has something to say about the role of Government in education .It believes that Government should have a role in education, but as an enabler “ to support the unique task of the teacher in leading students to learning. It is also right that politicians set the strategic direction and establish long term national objectives, but they must be precise and robust in their support of the primary relationship between teacher and student in the classroom – and the best way to foster that relationship is through enabling exciting, innovative and engaging teaching.” This is code for letting professionals get on with it and allow them freedom in the classroom to teach rather than seeking to micro-manage them through centrally driven diktats. Teachers must be more than agents for the delivery of Government policy.
The reports most controversial recommendation is an end to League tables. Teach First Report