Teach First high-flyers: league tables and curriculum are a big problem

20th November 2009 at 00:00
Fast-track trainees blast Government policies and call for slew of changes to help pupils and stop NQTs leaving profession

Graduates on the elite teacher training scheme Teach First have disparaged league tables, the national curriculum and Government policies, saying they prevent them from doing their job.

Participants in the initiative, which has gained huge kudos with all mainstream political parties, claim in a new study they feel a raft of central rules are holding them back.

They told researchers that teachers have to overcome a lack of support from senior and middle managers, a focus on results and behaviour management, a lack of time to spend with children and "rigid" lessons that don't allow pupils to get involved.

In their annual "policy" report, designed to give the Government ideas for improvements, they said that training would allow teachers to "leap" over these barriers and provide more interactive and exciting lessons.

The study calls for job swaps, more flexible working and regular time off for studying, which it says would stop recruitment problems in inner-city schools. It also says part-time contracts and better training would make teaching more attractive.

The Teach First participants, who have taken part in the training scheme from 2003 onwards, recommend HR managers be introduced in schools to help teachers "meet their professional goals". They also want an online talent pool that organisations can use to recruit and teachers can use to search for people to train and network with.

Allowing teachers to be more inquisitive would help them be more positive about Government controls and reforms, argues one participant, Katherine Richardson.

"They see having to teach to the test and top-down pressure to perform as a problem, but we also found examples of teachers overcoming these," said Ms Richardson, now a postgraduate student and teacher trainer. "We are saying teachers can fix or find ways around these issues."

Flexible teachers could work part-time in one or more schools, and use their time to work in other industries. The Teach First teachers, recruited from the UK's best universities to train in challenging schools, say this would allow staff to remain enthusiastic, pick up new skills and help stop NQTs leaving the profession. The report also says Christine Blower, general secretary of teaching union the NUT, has backed flexible working.

The Teach First participants said the suggestions came from changes in education policy, such as the use of personalised learning and allowing children to collaborate.

"Applying these principles to the development of teachers and schools would, in turn, serve our pupils better," the report says. "We are not educational researchers, although we have included some literature in our thinking. We are all educators with front-line experience and strong academic backgrounds.

"All our recommendations will help teachers to want to remain in teaching through the power of collaboration across sectors. They are examples of how we can think outside the box on working together for the benefit of pupils, teachers, schools and society."

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