One of the passions I brought back to Wales when I returned home in 2005 was the experience of being involved in the establishment of Teach First in London. Since then Teach First has made a substantial contribution to the transformation of schools in disadvantaged communities across England.
It took until 2013 with the support of Leighton Andrews as Education Minister to introduce Teach First in Wales and an honour to chair the Teach First Cymru advisory group for 4 years Since then the charity has placed over 200 teachers in schools across Wales, working with over a quarter of all secondary schools in Wales, recruiting a significant proportion of Wales’s highest calibre entrants to the profession (with a 2.1 or 1st) in Maths and Science. These benefits apply to some of the most disadvantaged schools which often struggle the most with teacher shortages.
Since 2015, Teach First Cymru have made it a key priority to place more participants in Wales that are committed to teaching in the country long-term. The results of this are now starting to show. 95% of the 2017 cohort will be staying in teaching roles in Wales in their third year of teaching, which is a higher retention rate than any other teacher training route in Wales. According to the latest data, 95% of TFC participants that start the programme gain QTS, compared with 78% of Secondary PGCE postgraduate ITE students, while Teach First trained teachers are seven times more likely to progress into leadership roles than those trained on PGCEs.
I no longer chair the Teach First Cymru advisory Board, so the Welsh Government announcement that they were no longer going to allocate funding to support Teach First passed me by. This despite the popularity with headteachers in Wales, with 22 headteachers writing to the Welsh Government asking them to guarantee that Teach First continues.
I understand that at a time when school funding is at a premium, Teach First is a more expensive option, but we should be investing in every effort that gets the best teachers into our schools. We know that the best teachers are essential for the wellbeing of future generations – much more important than the design of new curriculum. Teach First is part of a global network with a proven track record of contribution to improvements in . This year recruitment to Teach First in England has reached record levels.
At the same time, in shortage subjects, more teachers are leaving the profession in Wales than are entering it. The rate at which teachers are leaving teaching in Wales is increasing, while the increasing differences between England and Wales may mean fewer teachers moving to Wales to teach.
I know Teach First Cymru team will continue to work hard to support the current cohorts of Teacher First teachers and we should be grateful that there remains a commitment from Teach First and its investors to maintain a presence in Wales.