Three key findings from a new NFER evaluation of the Teach First Training Programme
Thursday 20 July 2023
This blog post was published by Tes on Wednesday 19 July 2023.
Today NFER has published two reports with research findings from a two-part impact evaluation of the Teach First Training Programme.
The first focused on an analysis of the progression and retention of Teach First Ambassadors, using Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and School Workforce Census data to highlight the very different career trajectories of Teach First teachers compared to those who train through higher education and school, and employment-based training routes.
The second analysed the impact on the workforce and pupil attainment in schools that recruited one or more Teach First trainees, compared to otherwise similar schools which did not recruit Teach First trainees.
The Teach First Training Programme has a distinct place within the ITT landscape in England. During its second decade the programme grew substantially in size – from two per cent of all trainees in 2008/09 to four per cent in 2018/19 – and evolved in nature.
In this blog I pick out three key findings from our analysis.
After recruiting their first Teach First trainee, GCSE attainment in secondary school departments that recruited a Teach First trainee was statistically significantly higher than in similar departments in comparison schools
We compared the GCSE attainment of pupils before and after their schools recruited Teach First trainees for the first time and compared it to the attainment of otherwise similar schools that have not recruited a Teach First teacher.
We found that the recruitment of a Teach First trainee was associated with higher GCSE attainment in the departments in which the trainee was placed, compared to otherwise similar departments without a Teach First trainee. The difference was small but statistically significant. The analysis is based on all pupils at the school since we were unable to identify the pupils taught by particular teachers in the data. Indeed, this impact dilution may explain why there were no significant differences in whole-school pupil attainment impacts, because they reflected pupil attainment on a substantial number of pupils in Teach First partner schools who were never directly taught by a Teach First teacher.
There was also some evidence to suggest that, after recruiting their first Teach First trainee, pupils who sat their GCSEs in Teach First partner schools may have been more likely to attend university, and a Russell Group university, than pupils who sat their GCSEs in similar comparison schools. However, there were significant caveats associated with this latter finding. There were no statistically significant impacts on Key Stage 2 scores in primary schools or on A level attainment for pupils who sat their GCSEs at a Teach First partner school.
Recruiting a Teach First trainee did not appear to have had a significant impact on the recruiting schools’ wider recruitment and retention situation, beyond filling the immediate vacancy. However, the workforce measures we included in the analysis were only a limited set of proxies for workforce challenges, which may not necessarily have represented a complete picture of workforce impacts. Nonetheless, there were no indications that recruiting a Teach First trainee had any negative impacts on schools or pupils.
Teach First teachers were more likely to be in leadership positions early in their careers
Teach First aims to provide a leadership pipeline for schools serving disadvantaged communities by supporting trainees to make rapid progression into leadership positions. Among the teachers who stayed in teaching, our analysis found that those who trained through Teach First were more likely to be in middle leadership positions early in their careers compared to those who trained through other routes.
For example, three years after their Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) year, the proportion of Teach First teachers who were in middle leadership positions was 38 per cent higher than for similar teachers who trained through higher education routes. The proportion was 22 per cent higher than for similar teachers who trained through school- and employment-based routes (50 per cent of Teach First teachers, compared to 36 and 40 per cent of similar teachers who trained through higher education and school- and employment-based routes, respectively).
Those who trained through Teach First were also considerably more likely to be in senior leadership positions early in their careers. Seven years after their NQT year, the proportion of Teach First teachers in a senior leadership position was four times higher than for similar teachers who trained through the higher education route and twice as high than for similar teachers who trained through school and employment-based routes (30 per cent of Teach First teachers, compared to eight and 15 per cent, respectively).
The difference in retention rates between Teach First teachers and other routes has improved substantially over time
Understanding how retention rates differ between Teach First teachers and other routes is somewhat complex due to the two-year nature of the Teach First programme. A Teach First trainee’s NQT year marks the end of the two-year programme, whereas other training routes are one-year programmes that end before a trainee’s NQT year. There is a natural break after regular ITT programmes, at which considerable numbers of trainees choose not to enter state-sector teaching, whereas the natural break for Teach First trainees comes at the end of the two-year programme based in a state-funded school. At this point a considerable proportion of Teach First teachers exit state-sector teaching or move school.
In general, while Teach First teachers were more likely than teachers trained through other routes to be working in state-funded schools during their NQT year (i.e. the second year of their training), they were less likely to remain in teaching after their NQT year (once they completed their programme) compared to teachers trained through other routes who had entered the state sector.
However, looking across the whole two-year period for different routes, the data suggests that the gap in overall retention rates between Teach First and other routes has narrowed substantially during the last decade. The proportion of Teach First teachers who began their training in 2011/12 and were still in teaching in the year after their NQT year was 16 and 22 percentage points lower than for teachers who began their training in the same year on higher education and school and employment-based routes respectively. In contrast, the proportion of Teach First teachers who began their training in 2017/18 and were still in teaching one year after their NQT year was four percentage points higher than for teachers who began their training in the same year on a higher education route. This has been driven both by an improvement in retention rates for Teach First teachers and a fall in retention rates for teachers trained through other routes between 2011/12 and 2017/18.
It’s also important to recognise that Teach First teachers worked in schools serving disadvantaged communities, where retention rates among teachers from all routes tend to be lower, which is part of the explanation for why fewer Teach First NQTs stay in teaching after their two-year programme compared to NQTs from other routes.
Twenty years young
The Teach First Training Programme turns 20 years old this year, and our evaluations give new insights on some of the trainee outcomes and programme impacts during the first half of its second decade.
The programme has continued to grow in recent years and looks highly likely to continue to play a significant role in the teacher training landscape in its third decade.