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Teach First founder is leaving – with a parting shot at ministers over school funding

Brett Wigdortz to leave charity in October after 15 years at the helm

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Brett Wigdortz to leave charity in October after 15 years at the helm

Brett Wigdortz, the Teach First chief executive, has today announced he is moving on from the organisation he founded 15 years ago.

He will stand down in October, but the man behind the charity that has helped transform the image of teaching in this country is not going quietly.

Wigdortz has used a TES interview to voice his concerns about the government’s national school funding formula, which he fears could undo the progress made by some schools because it shifts money away from cities to rural areas.

“Many [London] schools I talk to are worried about their funding being cut and how they’ll be able to continue to provide services at that level,” the 43-year-old says.

Meeting him at the charity’s austere headquarters in the capital, Wigdortz tells TES that if he could go back in time to 2002 to give his younger self some advice, it would be a warning that his Teach First stewardship was going to last “a bit longer” than he was expecting. It was only supposed to be a sixth-month leave of absence from his management consultant job.

Both Wigdortz and Teach First have come a long way in the intervening years. The charity, which parachutes bright graduates into tough schools, is now the UK’s largest graduate recruiter and one of the most influential players in education. So why leave now?

“I think personally I’ve done what I could do and what I wanted to do at Teach First,” he says. “It felt like a really good time to now hand it over to the next person, who can take it to the next stage.”

Wigdortz says that his best moments at Teach First have been visiting schools that have been transformed beyond all recognition since he first visited them a decade ago, and knowing his teachers had a part in it.

However, these highs are coupled with the bitter knowledge that there are “very few schools” outside London that have made the same progress he has seen in the capital.

Wigdortz sees education as a key component of the lack of opportunities that caused people in many parts of the country to vote for Brexit.

“Going to schools outside of some of the big cities and talking to some of our teachers made me think there’s a lot of kids and parents out there who feel really disengaged,” he says.

He believes reversing this disengagement is the big “political challenge of our time” and that education – and Teach First – will have a key role to play.

As for his own future, while he will remain Teach First’s honorary president, he insists he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next.

He says he's taking a leaf out of the Teach First book: “One of the central tenets of Teach First is the idea that it’s just not necessarily right for everyone to do the same job their entire lives.”

This is an edited article from the 27 January edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article hereTo subscribe, click here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here.

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