Recession could hit sponsors, warns Teach First as applications soar

The organisers of Teach First, the corporate-sponsored fast-track training scheme that handpicks elite graduates to teach in challenging secondaries, have admitted to being "really worried" about the impact of the recession on the programme.

The concerns come as the scheme reports a record number of applications from high-calibre graduates.

Brett Wigdortz, chief executive of Teach First, said he hoped the initiative will continue to receive the same level of funding from firms so that it can maintain strong growth.

"Our sponsorship has held up so far but we are really worried about the current situation," Mr Wigdortz said. "Support from businesses is pretty instrumental to Teach First."

About half of Teach First's annual budget is raised from one-off and long-term grants from businesses, charities and individuals. "Platinum" sponsors have included the Canary Wharf Group, HSBC and the now defunct Lehman Brothers Foundation Europe.

More than 3,000 graduates are hoping to be one of the 580 picked to start on this summer's course. Places on the course have increased from 260 when Teach First was launched in 2002 to 360 last year, to a maximum of 600 this year.

Applications have grown by 1,000 this year. At one point in January, they showed a 93 per cent year-on-year rise, possibly reflecting students' worries about finding jobs during the recession.

Teach First graduates receive six weeks' initial training before taking up teaching positions.

At its launch, Teach First worked with 60 schools, but the figure has grown to around 200. It will start placing graduates in East Midlands and Yorkshire schools this September.

As well as expanding into further education, the Government wants to introduce a similar scheme for early-years staff.

Mr Wigdortz said the increase in applicants for Teach First was because of its growing reputation. The programme is now the biggest recruiter of graduates from Oxford and Cambridge, and there has been a surge in interest from those about to leave Nottingham and Manchester universities.

"It's a very difficult programme and we have to make sure all of our graduates are successful," he said.

"More graduates seem interested in teaching in challenging schools because they see the great leadership qualities which come with this."

James Darley, director of graduate recruitment, said: "The response rate this year has been incredible and we have been extremely impressed by the quality of applicants.

"While it would be foolish to deny that a diminishing number of vacancies elsewhere forms part of the picture, it is clear that Teach First has been able to demonstrate the value of teaching as a leadership profession to the UK's brightest young people.

"The skills learned in teaching have application in a variety of fields and the Teach First scheme is a great start to a career."

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