In just ten years Teach First has established itself as a real alternative to graduate schemes with big corporates. This year Teach First managed to sneak past PwC and steal the top spot as the UK’s largest single recruiter of graduates. Teach First continues to be a popular option for Warwick graduates, but don’t be tempted to think of Teach First as a contingency or plan B option. To survive the application process you’ll need to demonstrate the same energy, enthusiasm and commitment required to work in some of the UK’s most challenging schools.
Checking your eligibility
Teach First is an attractive option to both home and international students, but you must satisfy certain eligibility requirements so don’t submit an application unless you’re confident you can meet the following:
- Degree and/or A-level / Scottish Advanced Highers grade A or B (or equivalent) in a subject aligned to a National Curriculum subject. You will need to secure a 2:1 or above.
- Grade C (or equivalent) in GCSE English & maths (Grade C in one Science GCSE for primary teaching) / Scottish Standard Grades.
- Flexibility to work anywhere within nine English regions and in Wales.
- Eligibility to work in the UK for two years from the start of the programme – to be proven in May of the year you start.
Cracking the competencies
If you’ve already started the application process for graduate schemes, or applied previously for internships you’ll be familiar with ‘core competencies’ – the skills needed to do the job. Graduate employers tend to be fairly transparent in their application and selection processes, including the specific competencies used to assess and select candidates. Teach First is no different and there is clearly some common ground with other graduate recruiters (leadership and problem solving feature prominently) BUT they also focus on qualities that align with their mission and vision – most notably, “humility, respect and empathy“. The table below outlines the competencies used to assess Teach First applicants:
- Teach First strongly encourage all applicants to speak to – or meet with – a Graduate Recruitment Officer before applying to support them through the process. The application process is tough and competitive, so don’t squander your chances by submitting a superficial, poorly constructed or weak application. Check myAdvantage for Teach First campus events – you’ll find them listed under ’employer presentations’.
- Find out what the programme is like – both the training and teaching – by talking to current participants. Teach First is a rewarding but challenging option and not for the faint hearted; find out beforehand what’s really involved, so you can demonstrate the requisite knowledge and understanding at the application stage.
- Try to stand out from the crowd by showing a range of extra-curricular examples and experiences that highlight your initiative and pro-activity. Teach First is looking for leaders, not followers.
- Follow the STAR method. S – clearly explain the situation; T – detail the task(s) involved; A – outline the action taken and skills developed; R – explain the result or outcome of your actions.
When it comes to completing your application form, you need to strive for quality, not mediocrity, as Ollie Longworth (Senior Graduate Recruitment Officer for Teach First) affirms:
We are looking for candidates who demonstrate a strong enthusiasm and passion for our vision and can articulate the impact they wish to make in the classroom, on route to becoming an effective Teach First ambassador. Mediocre application forms will make reference to generic skills and it will not be all that obvious as to how these skills are applicable to a classroom environment. Impressive application forms highlight specific skills and link these to the impact that a candidate wishes to make
Teach First recruits on a rolling basis, so don’t be tempted to leave your application to the last minute. If you’re applying for humanities or primary teaching, the sooner the better. Check the Teach First application guidelines for more information about the application and selection process.
Plugging the STEM gap
Teach First welcomes applications from all disciplines (subject to meeting the subject criteria) but they are keen to attract students equipped to teach STEM subjects – particularly maths. And you don’t need to be registered on a STEM related degree course. Humanities and social science students/graduates with a ‘good’ A level (A*, A or B grade) in the relevant STEM subject will certainly be considered. Ollie himself is a philosophy graduate who taught maths for two years, so it’s more than possible!
If you’re at an earlier stage in your degree – a (soon-to-be) first year or second year student – with an interest in STEM teaching you might want to consider the Insight Programme. Insight participants gain valuable work experience in a Teach First partner school and the opportunity to design a science or maths-related project. As with any career sector, the ‘try before you buy’ principle applies, so if you can get any form of school-based experience, Insight or otherwise, then take it.
Teaching and beyond
If you’re familiar with Teach First you’ll know that the Leadership Development Programme combines working, training and qualifying as a teacher with coaching, mentoring and further training to develop your leadership potential. Despite an initial two year commitment, many Teach First participants decide to stay within teaching (in the classroom and beyond), inspired by the Teach First mission and the students they teach. Others find that two years is enough and choose to transfer the skills, knowledge and experience gained to a new setting – perhaps business or a not-for-profit. Juliet Mercer, Associate Partner at Deloitte has this to say:
Deloitte recognises the power of the Teach First community. We have a number of ambassadors working for us…and their classroom experiences have given them an excellent grounding in leadership skills.
Are you looking for a transformative experience as well as a career? Then apply to “teach first”…