So, Did We Pass the Teach First Test? Teach First Was Launched in 2002 to Fast-Track Bright Graduates into Tough Schools without Full Training. Amy Williams Met Four from the First Intake Who Must Decide If Teaching Is for Them

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Byline: AMY WILLIAMS

'I'm leaving teaching for further study' Amy Clarke, 24, studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford. She now teaches English at The Business Academy in Bexley and is leaving in the summer to start a Masters degree in comparative politics. She says: I KNEW it would be difficult to start teaching without having first done a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) but I didn't expect it to be as tough as it was. In that respect, Teach First exceeded my expectations.

Bexley Academy was a new school when I joined in 2003, so it was enthusiastic about new ideas. A real positive of Teach First is that it puts young people into classrooms who have achieved something in their lives and who can become role models.

However, four out of the eight Teach First staff at my school are leaving at the end of next term and I'm one of them. There are a variety of reasons for my decision. I'm not passionate about English, the subject I teach. I'm interested in children's learning but I'm not as excited about it as some teachers are. Also, I've always wanted to do a Masters and now is the time to do it - I don't have a mortgage or any other responsibility that might tie me to a job. The MA may affect my longterm choice and I may not return to teaching. However, Teach First has meant it will always be an option.

I would still recommend Teach First.

Even if it's hell for a while, it's a fascinating experience. The best bits are when you see things you've implemented working, especially discipline measures. It is so rewarding when you can maintain control in class.

The thing that depresses me most is your inability as a teacher to change the views and attitudes of pupils - it's especially hard to get young people from deprived backgrounds to think outside their own box.

For instance, when we held a minute's silence for the tsunami victims, some pupils just laughed and chatted, saying: "Why should we care about them, Miss? We've got enough problems as it is." Sometimes, as a teacher, you feel powerless.

On the other hand, there are some students with whom I've formed really good relationships and I'll find it difficult to leave them.

Ashutosh Arya, 24, studied computing at Imperial College London. He now teaches maths and information communication technology (ICT) at St Michael's RC school in Bermondsey. In September, he will move to a school in Berkshire to take up a leadership post. He says: I KNOW people who are doing Teach First for the "challenge buzz". Lots of them come from a background where getting a job at a top City firm after university was expected. Teach First utilises this pool of intelligent, driven people and shows that they can be just as productive in the public sector.

I realised that what Teach First was offering was very special - the skills you acquire squaring up to a class of 30 kids on an hourly basis in an isolated environment is more of a challenge than any City job and fantastic training for anything you might do later in life.

I had considered teaching before I heard about Teach First but I was never serious, and I wouldn't have done anything that required going back to university. I needed to get my teeth into something, so Teach First appealed.

Plus, the salary is good - I started on [pounds sterling]19,500.

Because Teach First recognises that you're bright, you kind of get branded as special, but come September, you realise that, to the pupils, you're just like any other teacher.

I am aware, also, that as a Teach First teacher I get less support than I would on a PGCE course, so there's not much to fall back on.

The workload is heavy, mainly because the kids affect you emotionally. I find it difficult to leave that behind at the end of the day. I have high expectations of myself and am always trying to think of new ideas or ways to motivate the pupils. …