Teach First is a registered charity that was created in 2002 to address educational disadvantages in England and Wales.
With Teach First, candidates can apply for a place on the employment-based teacher training programme that combines in-classroom experience with mentoring to help employees gain Qualified Teacher Status as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Education. This training takes just two years, and candidates are paid from their first day in the classroom.
Opportunities exist in Primary, Early Years, and Secondary, and to apply all you need to do is match the eligibility criteria:
2:1 degree in a relevant subject
GCSE Grade C/4 in Maths and English Language for Secondary
GCSE Grade C/4 in a Science (as well as English and Maths) for Primary and Early Years
Right to work in the UK for the duration of the training programme
Overview of the Teach First training programme
The programme starts with the Summer Institute, which is a combination of in-person and online training that takes five weeks full-time or nine weeks part-time. Then, in the first year, you will be teaching a partial timetable and earning at least as much as an unqualified teacher.
By the end of the first year, you will achieve Qualified Teacher Status. Through the summer, you can choose an optional placement at one of the partner companies of Teach First.
In the second year, you’ll have more teaching time and the opportunity to take on some other responsibilities - and by the end of the second year, you will have completed your PGDE.
The application process is relatively straightforward. The first step is the application form, and you’ll need to share details about your degree as well as personal and contact information. If you meet the basic criteria, you will be invited to come along to the Development Center, which is similar to the assessment centre that is used by other companies for recruitment.
Why does Teach First use assessment centres?
The Teach First assessment centre is slightly different from traditional assessment centres - they call them Development Centers because they are less about what you have already achieved and more about your ability to learn and develop.
The assessment centre is an opportunity for the recruiters to get to know you and your style to see if you would be a good fit for the role. They are used to evaluate each candidate on their competencies and soft skills, as well as their ability to learn and grow using feedback from others and through self-evaluation.
The Development Center can take place at the head office in London or virtually - it is up to you.
What skills is Teach First is looking for?
The Teach First team has specific competencies that they are looking for in their applicants to the programme. These are:
Humility, respect, and empathy
Understanding and motivation
Planning and organizing
Throughout the Development Center, you need to keep these ideas in mind when you are interacting with the other candidates and with the assessors; they want to see that you are able to empathize and be supportive of others, and that you are willing to get involved in the process.
The planning part comes from getting ready for each exercise that you have to undertake - and self-evaluation is one of the most important things that you should concentrate on.
Development can only happen if you are able to have an honest look at your own performance and see where you need to improve, working from your own feedback as well as from the feedback of mentors and assessors.
Teach First assessment centre format
The order of activities and exercises might vary, but you can expect to see the following in the Development Center:
Teach First interview
The interview at the Teach First Development Center is a competency-based interview, and what the recruiters are looking for here are examples from your experience that demonstrate the competencies that they are looking for in their student teachers.
To assess this, the recruitment team might ask questions that look like this:
Tell us about a time when you had to lead a team.
Describe a project you were involved in that did not go to plan.
Tell me about a time when you needed to make a detailed plan to get something done.
With these questions, you need to make sure that you have prepared some answers in advance so that you have the right experiences to describe to the interviewers.
Teach First case study exercise
This is a group exercise, where you will be put in a group of up to six other candidates. As part of this group, you will be given a case study based on a fictional yet realistic school situation, and as a team, you will need to discuss and debate it to come up with a workable solution.
In this part of the assessment centre, you will be evaluated on communication and teamwork, but also on your ability to negotiate and help others to share their thoughts.
After the case study group exercise, you will need to complete a verbal self-evaluation exercise to reflect on your performance.
Teach First teaching episode
The last part of the process is usually the teaching episode. A short while before the Development Center, usually about a week before, you will be offered several different topics that you can choose from to deliver a four-minute teaching episode on.
In this part of the evaluation, you will need to deliver your teaching episode in a manner that is both appropriate and creative, engaging the ‘children’ of the age group that you are applying to teach.
Following this, you will get some feedback from the assessors, and you will be invited to teach the moment again, but this time with the feedback of the assessor in mind.
Again, once this section is complete, you will have an opportunity to complete some more self-evaluation about your performance and see where you can improve.
Tips for passing the Teach First assessment centre
1. Be on time
Whether you have chosen to travel to the head office in London to complete the Development Center or you are taking part online, be on time if you cannot be early. This will often be the first time you will be face-to-face with the recruitment team, and you want to make a good impression. Not only could being late impair your chances, it will also make you feel flustered and less likely to be able to perform at your best.
2. Be yourself
Authenticity in teaching is really important, and children will know if you are not being your authentic self - as will the recruitment team. You need to put yourself forward in the best light, of course, but you still need to be yourself because that is what the recruiters want to see.
3. Demonstrate competencies
In the interview portion of the assessment centre in particular, you are going to need to demonstrate that you have the competencies that they are looking for. The list is above - before you go, try and think about a specific event that you were involved in, whether in previous employment or while you were completing your degree, that matches those competencies. If you have the ideas prepared beforehand you will feel more confident talking about them.
4. Prepare your teaching moment
The teaching segment of the session is one that you will be expected to prepare for, so make sure that you know your subject matter inside and out, and practice your delivery. If you are unsure of how to pitch it, you can look for examples of best practices on the internet and adapt those - and try it all out on someone like a close friend or family member that you can get some honest feedback from.
5. Get used to self-evaluation
For many people, looking at your performance honestly can be both uncomfortable and difficult, especially if it is something that you are not familiar with. Whenever you complete a task, whether at home or in your current role, take a few minutes to reflect on how you performed at it, whether there were any points that you might want to improve on, and what you did well. This is a skill that you will need to use both in the assessment centre and in the training programme too.