To some of you Teach First is a name that inspires, to others it is merely a foreign term which reflects the ever monetising nature of education. These reactions say more about our preconceived ideas of teaching then they do about the organisation itself.
For me, Teach First fills me with pride and hope. I was half way through my Postgraduate degree in History when I started my application for Teach First, something I had internally debated for many years. I clearly remember the moment I received the news that I had been successful and that I would soon be starting my journey to fight educational inequality. This was a special day for me, though the reason for this may not be immediately apparent.
My educational development as a child was very challenging. I spent a period of time in care, had undiagnosed Dyslexia, and went to four separate schools. I struggled to make new friends, my teachers did not know who I was, and I lashed out when I couldn’t comprehend what was going on around me. On top of this, I was also on the Free School Meals initiative. This initiative, whilst appearing to have a smooth surface, is more problematic than that. I will forever be haunted by the daily “ordering” of your FSM packed lunches. A teacher would walk into the class and ask everyone on FSM to stand whilst you requested what was in your sandwich.
This process of “ordering your food” was turned into a “game” for all of the children who remained sitting. To this day I struggle to not say “Ham please Sam”, “Cheese please Louise”, and my choice, which is even more problematic than its predecessors, “Peanut Butter thank you, nutter”.
This may sound innocent, and there were moments when I thought it was too. But in hindsight, young children from low economic backgrounds were being displayed like animals in a zoo. Our richer peers were not singing these rhymes with us, they were singing them to us. Is it really surprising that, although they provide an essential service, that the exercising of the FSM scheme if handled without empathy, can have long-term detrimental effects.
So back to the point, what is Teach First? Well, they aim to challenge the very things that I mentioned in my personal anecdote. Teach First aims to highlight the all too often accepted ignorance to poverty within the UK. They do this by challenging our ideas of the notion of poverty and addressing the very real and immediate needs of the children in our schools. Teach First aims to provide an outstanding education to all young people regardless of economic background, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religion. The list goes on. Teach First have already placed over 7000 highly motivated graduates in schools in low economic schools around the country, and they are certainly not finished.
I am proud to be part of the Teach First movement for change, and you will hear lots more about them from me. If you want to know more about this fantastic organisation I would strongly recommend looking at their Leadership Development Programme.