It is difficult to know where to start with the research published today by Rebecca Allen at the IOE (and reported by the BBC here). Her paper is interesting and informative, and clearly she has identified what she sees as a benefit of this approach (albeit based on the work of a MA student who clearly has such a positive view of what Teach First are doing that he has gone to work for them). However, she has identified so many potential caveats, influencing factors, limitations to the validity of her methodology and other potential problems it is hard to take her findings seriously. At best, as she says throughout the paper, it is only an ‘estimation‘ and we should be very careful about turning an ‘estimation‘ into a ‘truth’.
Even if, for a moment, we take her findings seriously, it would be interesting to hear her views on the cost benefit analysis of Teach First and whether or not the estimated benefit of the initiative (i.e. her own estimation is that there is one grade difference in one of the pupil’s best eight subjects) is really worth the huge amount of Government funding that this organisation receives. Readers of her research should remember that Teach First have just received a new grant of £76m of tax-payers money this year to continue their work.
The costs of training a teacher on the Teach First route is massively more expensively that other pathways (around three times the cost). In other words, we could train three teachers through a PGCE programme for the cost of one Teach First participant. Further details of the Education Select Committee report (including the figures that were dragged out of Teach First) and my analysis of this issue can be found here.
In addition to this, the stringent contracts that Teach First have imposed on its numerous partner HEI are further evidence of an organisation that is paranoid about its perceived image and also not frightened to produce deliberatively misleading advertising.
Teach First has many powerful advocates in the political and business world. However, my email in-tray receives a constant stream of correspondence from normal folk, including Teach First participants, university staff and others, who are too frightened to speak out about the cultish features of Teach First and their programme of indoctrination, the preoccupation with their ‘brand management’, and the poor practice of much of its programme in comparison to other training pathways. The promotion of this company by this Government and the previous one is, in my view, disgraceful. It has had a very negative effect on the wider initial teacher education sector as a whole. If it wants to continue to work in this field, it should do so funded by its wealthy benefactors and not by the public purse.