My writings on this blog are often critical of Teach First. I have many concerns about their work and the ways in which it is financed. It is rare to hear criticism of Teach First from its students or those who work on its programmes, not because everyone is happy about it but primarily because dissent is jumped on as a breach of contract and possible dismissal from post can result (through the Teach First disciplinary procedures which take precedence over the standard university contracts most academics are employed through).
So, in many ways it was encouraging (but still sad) to receive an email recently from a current Teach First student. It was far from complimentary about Teach First’s programme. Here is part of the email:
I’ve always wanted a career in teaching but I have found this experience a sheer endurance test. Working full-time as an unqualified teacher with some of the most vulnerable children in the UK is just a terrible idea, and I have hated every minute of it. I have been questioning whether I am being lazy, or defeatist, because much of the TF programme (and in general, attitudes towards teaching in a challenging comprehensive such as the one I teach in) is centered around promoting “resilience” and “determination” in the name of “narrowing the gap” and other euphemisms for the neo-liberalisation of state education which are mindlessly repeated.
I would encourage any Teach First student, or academic working on the programme, to get in touch with me about their experiences of Teach First (good or bad). I promise to keep any conversations we have private unless you give your express permission for your thoughts to be shared here (as this student has done).