Lured from the City to capital's schools

31st January 2003 at 00:00
Teach First has recruited 90 students to put something back and further their careers. Karen Thornton reports.

NICK Haisman could have gone straight for a career in the City when he graduates from Oxford University this summer. Instead, he plans to spend the next two years teaching some of the capital's poorest pupils.

The final-year student is one of 90 high-flyers who have been offered teaching placements in "challenging" London secondaries.

He will get the chance in the holidays to try out jobs in business or industry to help him make up his mind about his future career.

Teach First, modelled on Teach America in the United States, says it is well on its way to finding 200 similar candidates to start work in around 60 London secondaries this September, many in shortage subjects. Of 750 applications so far, 197 are from students who have been predicted to gain either a first or upper second class degree from Oxford, Cambridge or Imperial College, London.

More than 40 companies have pledged to support the scheme, including KPMG, Citigroup and WH Smith.

Brett Wigdortz, chief executive of Teach First, said: "Businesses recognise that graduates will be enhancing their skills and career prospects."

In the first year the Teach First recruits will be paid slightly less than a newly-qualified teacher. They will receive an NQT's salary plus inner London weighting in the second year.

The Government's own much more expensive "fast track" scheme for high-flyers has so far recruited around 200 graduates nationally into teacher training - over two years. Ministers have backed Teach First as part of their strategy for recruiting and retaining teachers in the capital.

Mr Haisman, 22, is from Greenwich, London, but went to boarding school as a child because his parents lived abroad. He is studying geography at Jesus College, Oxford, and has offered to teach maths or geography.

He was already interested in teaching, having spent a gap year in a secondary school in South Africa and his first summer vacation from university teaching English to children from Hong Kong.

"This postpones the decision about finally becoming a teacher, and gives me other options," said Mr Haisman.

"I feel I should focus a lot of my attention on helping and doing things in the city I grew up in, and on bringing the public and private sectors together.

"I believe a lot of kids in central London, including where I grew up very near to the City, couldn't have been more excluded or alienated from it."

Graduates will attend residential summer schools at Canterbury Christ Church university college and in London, and receive mentoring and training while working an 80 per cent timetable in schools.

Teach First hopes each school will take around four graduates, to help encourage an esprit de corps. Most should gain qualified teacher status after a year, and be able to take advantage of business mentoring and industrial internships during their holidays in their second year.

In the US, around 40 per cent remain in teaching and another 20 per cent stay in education.

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