Exclusive: I’ll improve Teach First retention by tackling burnout, says Hobby

New chief executive Russell Hobby also says he wants to attract a more diverse intake, including 'career changers and switchers'

Will Hazell

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The new chief executive of Teach First has said he wants to ensure recruits stay in the profession for longer by tackling workload-related burnout.

Teach First has the lowest retention rate of any teacher training route for which data is available, with recruits expected to commit a minimum of just two years to teaching.

Russell Hobby, the former general secretary of the NAHT heads’ union, said he wanted to persuade Teach First recruits to say in teaching for “a few more years” by creating school conditions where they could “thrive”.

Mr Hobby was unveiled as the new Teach First chief executive in May, replacing founder Brett Wigdortz, who is bowing out next month after 15 years at the helm.

In an exclusive first interview published just two weeks into his new job, Mr Hobby revealed his plans for the organisation.

He said one of his top priorities was encouraging recruits to stay longer in teaching by “helping them thrive” in school.

“Increasingly what we find and what a lot of heads are saying is that it’s all very well getting great people, but if you’re going to burn them out when they get there, or if you put them in environments where they can’t use their skills, they are not going to stay,” he said.

“They are not going to thrive and have the impact on pupils that we and they would wish.”

“A big thing for us in the coming years is how we work with school leaders to make sure that they’ve got what they need to help teachers thrive there. It can be around issues on workload, it can be line management skills, a whole range of things.”

Mr Hobby said Teach First’s retention was “much better than the myths allow”.

However, he told Tes he would like people to stay for longer.  

But he said expecting a lifetime commitment from recruits, or forcing them to stay longer, would prove counterproductive and drive applicants away.

“What I think we’ve got to do is get them in and make it so good that the pleasure they get from working with these children makes it harder and harder to leave.”

Along with creating conditions where teachers could thrive, Mr Russell said his two other key priorities were:

  • “Getting more great teachers where they are needed”. He said Teach First hadn’t “finished the job” of parachuting teachers into challenging schools. Asked whether Teach First would continue to expand its cohort year-on-year, he said “there’s no reason why not to”.
  • “Getting society better organised to support schools.” Mr Hobby said Teach First needed to harness the 10,000 “ambassadors” who have gone through its programme “to help get schools what they need”.

Mr Hobby also said he was “really interested in looking at career changers and switchers” as a source of Teach First recruits, rather than just recent graduates.

He said career switchers could provide schools with a stream of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) teachers, and that older candidates might be more willing to move out of the city to work in challenging rural and coastal schools.

“I’m really interested in Teach First continuing to be a strong graduate recruiter…but let’s look at also having some more diverse sources of people coming in as well,” he said.

For an extended interview with Russell Hobby and analysis of where Teach First goes next click here

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Will Hazell

Will Hazell

Will Hazell is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @whazell

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