Last year I wrote about Jon Ashworth’s support for Teach First – an educational program that brings unqualified underpaid teachers into impoverished schools. Now, ever committed to the New Labour corporate bandwagon, this summer fellow Labour MP Liz Kendall (Leicester West) gave her own boost to Teach First — noting that she is “determined to do everything I can to support more Teach First teachers in primary and secondary schools across Leicester West.”
Of course the Labour Party’s educational policies differ little from those of the Tories so Kendall’s action should come as no real surprise. Thus speaking in 2011, Christine Blower, the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers pointed to the real issue at stake:
“While Teach First’s desire to tackle inner city deprivation is admirable, this cannot be addressed by teachers alone. The axing of local authority support services to schools is the issue that teachers and head teachers see as the biggest threat to providing the help and assistance required by children with the greatest needs”.
With regard to Teach First’s corporate orientation, I wrote last year:
“Like most corporate profiteers, Teach First’s affable rhetoric stands in stark contrast to their contribution to the further demise of the British educational system. With Brett Wigdortz, the man who has led Teach First’s operations since their launch in 2002, having come to this position after serving as a management consultant at the ubiquitous McKinsey & Company…Much like Mr Wigdortz, Teach First’s chief operating officer, John Colenutt, has a similarly “useful” corporate background, as prior to joining Teach First he had been an investment banker at JP Morgan Cazenoze.”
Or as blogging headteacher Tom Sherrington wrote last year: “There is no evidence that [Teach First] does anything to tackle poverty any more than all the other [non-Teach First] teachers; I think it is insulting to mainstream teachers working in the same environment.”
Julian Vasquez Heilig, an important voice of reason in any discussion regarding the ill-affects of Teach For America programs — the direct inspiration for Teach First — adds that:
“The approach is that we can take anyone with a college degree and just put them into the classroom almost immediately,” he says. “What Teach For America actually is is a temp agency. It’s just a stopover; [participants] do it as a resume builder. It’s a cheap route to staffing schools.”
And while high-flying young graduates may offer an improvement on the weakest teaching that exists in some schools, Heilig is concerned at what this means for the most vulnerable students in the education system.
“The only choice in these schools is between a bad teacher and a worse teacher,” he says. “Is it a false choice? The poor haven’t been given the option of having a good teacher. What the poor kids get is ill-prepared teachers.”