The NAO reveals the truth about the vast costs and minimal gains associated with Teach First

Thank goodness for the National Audit Office! Perhaps this is not something that you would normally expect to say, but the public body, whose vision is to help the nation spend wisely and help Parliament hold government to account through improving public services, has done sterling work today in publishing its report – Training New Teachers.

Apart from the top line messages (which are far from encouraging, e.g. it is 4 years since the Department for Education has met its target in training the right number of new teachers, and there are significant signs that the crisis is worsening (p.13)), the report provides clarity and a line in the sand in relation to the key problems associated with Teach First; namely, its cost and ineffectiveness in educating teachers who go onto enjoy a long teaching career. Regular readers of this blog will know that these are things I have pointed out on numerous occasions over the past few years.

Let’s start by looking a total costs (Fig. 17, p.38):


Teach First trained 1200 teachers at a total cost of £43 million (yes, million!) pounds during 2013/14. That’s £35,833 for each one! This compares to £18,991 for each student trained within an university-led programme. Incidentally, on these figures university-led programmes are easily the most cost effective. University-led provision also filled the highest proportion of their allocations (85%) – see p.39.

The NAO helpfully provide another figure that shows the true costs associated with Teach First (fig.19 on p.43). Here it is:


There are two additional points here. Firstly, although the subject of student loans is a contentious one, once loans have been repaid the bottom three routes into teaching become even cheaper (for the state at least, if not the individual concerned).

Secondly, the cost to schools of having a Teach First student within their institution is almost four times that of a traditional university PGCE student.

Advocates of Teach First argue that the benefits associated with the programme are worth the extra cost. They also try to reassure us that Teach First ‘ambassadors’ enjoy long careers, at least of similar length to those educated in other routes. However, this is also false. The NAO expose this myth in their retention chart which so, graphically and beyond any doubt, the huge exodus of teachers trained by Teach First after two years of teaching (fig.20, p.44):


To give you a sense of comparison, the NAO report that through other pathways around 28% of teachers leave the profession after five year (p.8). With Teach First it is around 40% after two years (and that’s a charitable reading of the above table)!

These figures and the detailed analysis done by the NAO show that Teach First has been a huge waste of money (at a time of austerity when we are meant to be watching every £) and is operating a completely ineffective system which trains teachers who only make a minimal contribution to schools and pupils’ lives before leaving the profession to enjoy other careers. As I have said repeatedly, the clue is in the name. Teach ‘first’, and then move on.

We have a brilliant mechanism for training teachers within universities across the UK. The overall quality is excellent and it is cost effective. The taxpayer’s money spent on this charade by this Government and the previous Labour one is disgraceful in my opinion. The sooner it is closed down or public money is withdrawn from this ‘charity’ the better.