There are some significant changes afoot in the world of initial teacher education. Not least of these has been the rise of Teach First. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have many concerns about this organisation, not least the significant public monies that this ‘charity’ receives to go about its work. But from September 2013, things are going to change dramatically, and, in my view, not for the better.
Currently, Teach First works through a partnership arrangement with universities across the UK to deliver its programme. But from September 2013 things will change. If the current bidding/tendering process proceeds as expected, from September 2013 Teach First itself will become a provider of initial teacher education in its own right. It will receive its own ITE allocation of student numbers and funding directly, before sub-contracting with universities to help deliver its programme.
This in itself is curious and worth dwelling on further. The tender is for the establishment of a National ITT Provider for the Teach First Programme, with around £76m up for grabs to undertake this role. But my sources tell me that Teach First itself has applied to become the national ITT provider for its own programme! In other words, they are bidding for £76m of public money to manage the whole ITE process themselves, As we will see, this includes the imposition of draconian contracts on any universities who choose to partner with them in this new role.
The precise nature of these new contracts should cause many universities and their staff significant concerns. I’ve seen copies of the ‘Relationship Management’ parts of these proposed contracts that Teach First have written, and they contain clauses which give Teach First significant responsibitlies for the direct recruitment, management and discipline of university appointed staff.
So, not only do Teach First want to exert significant influence about the content of the programme, as it is delivered by their university partner, they want to have a significant influence in the selection of university staff, their performance management, and any potential discipline procedures that they may face. This worries me considerably.
Here are some questions to consider:
- In the current climate of reducing HEI student numbers, will universities be able to, or want to, resist the imposition of draconian contracts such as this with affluent partners like Teacher First (given their new status and power as an independent provider of ITE?
- As a member of staff working in a university with a new Teach First contract, would you be happy working under such an arrangement? Have you been informed about the potential consequences on your work post 2013 if your university is expecting to work with Teach First and this new National ITT Provider for the Teach First Programme organisation?
- Why is an additional £76m of public money being made available to the successful winner of the National ITT Provider for the Teach First Programme tender? One might have thought that Teach First should be able to fund and deliver its own programme without this public subsidy.
Perhaps you wondering about how many students the new Teach First programme will train? This information is contained within the tender document: 1,250 in 2013/14 increasing to 1,500 in 2014/15. So, between 2013 – 2016 they will be training approximately 4,250 students. £76m for 4250 students = £17,8882/student, Remember though, that this £76m is in addition to the core funding that individual Teach First students attract and which is paid, currently, to Teach First working in partnership with selected universities. Please contrast that with the traditional PGCE routes which are having to run on the basis of student fees alone (i.e. £9k/year with no additional subsidy). Hardly a level playing field.
Unfortunately, there seems to be little political will to challenge the prevailing narrative about the success of Teach First. However, all the recent research has shown that Teach First students do not enjoy long teaching careers. Only around 40% of their students are still in teaching five years after their programme has ended. And this includes students who Teach First say are working in education but are actually maybe contributing as little as one day a month on their mentoring programmes (whilst working full time in a bank, perhaps?). The actual figure is likely to be much less. Teach First costs us, the taxpayer, significantly more; it doesn’t educate teachers that are any better than traditional routes; their teachers leave the profession sooner than those trained through other routes; and, from September 2013, hundreds of university staff working on Teach First contracts could find themselves being accountable to Teach First directly for their work and suffer the consequences, personally, if they don’t meet their standards or share their dominant ideology.