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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 July, 2005, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
High-flying teachers to graduate
Graduates become trained teachers but also learn business skills
The first intake of teachers onto a scheme to recruit high-achievers into challenging schools is set to graduate.

Over 150 graduates on the Teach First programme carried out two-year placements in London secondary schools which find it hard to recruit staff.

They achieved qualified teacher status but also received training in business skills to enable them to move on to other careers - though not all will.

They received just six weeks' intensive training before teaching lessons.


Katherine Pothecary said she felt "absolutely petrified" after her training when she first stood in front of a class at Leytonstone School.

"But I think I quickly learned how to cope, as did the others on the scheme," she said.

"We had to be resilient. But I learned to keep smiling too."

After the placement, teaching science, Ms Pothecary was the second longest-serving teacher in her department, such was the staff turnover.

She had been planning to train to be a lawyer after her placement, but now wants to stay in schools.

"I've done two years of teaching and loved it. And the support of the mentors was inspirational and a large part of why I wanted to stay on."

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But David Lake will leave teaching to join Barclays business leadership programme after two years teaching at Forest Gate Community School.

"I liked teaching but wanted the opportunity to do other things," he said.

The French and Spanish teacher said perhaps his toughest challenge was teaching a class that said they hated French and always would.

David Lake
David was attracted by the idea that he could keep his options open

"I learned that building up relationships outside as well as inside the classroom helped.

"Some of the pupils were good at other things such as football, and I would go to watch them and show an interest. I listened to them and found they listened to me more."

He is in no doubt that the skills he learned helped him to be accepted at Barclays.

"I learned to be dynamic, adapt to situations and be creative.

"If you can teach in a tough environment you can cope with a lot."

The scheme is loosely based on Teach for America, which recruited teachers to inner city schools in the US.

Teach First is supported by business and not-for-profit organisations.

The government says high-calibre graduates have had a positive impact on some of London's most difficult schools.

Sarah Higgs, director of leadership development and alumni for Teach First, said the number of participating schools had risen to 70 for the next academic year from 45 in 2003.

Actually we had to learn how to fail too
Katherine Pothecary
"All schools participating in the first year want to continue their involvement in the scheme," she said.

A total of 159 teachers will graduate from the Teach First programme on 8 July. They attained teacher status after the first year of the placement.

As well as professional mentoring support, they received training in business skills leading to a certificate in foundations of leadership.

"The vast majority of graduates in the first year indicated they wanted to continue their involvement in the long term, by mentoring new Teach First teachers and running workshops, for example," Ms Higgs added.

Hard work and rewards

Some initially questioned whether any graduate without the PGCE - the usual, postgraduate teaching certificate involving a year-long course - could do the job of a fully-trained teacher.

"I know some of the staff had reservations about the scheme," Ms Pothecary said.

"Perhaps they were worried they might meet a group of Oxbridge graduates who thought they knew how to teach.

"Actually we had to learn how to fail. We weren't good at this straight away - we had to learn too."

She says she feels the Teach First participants brought a positive attitude and strong subject knowledge to the school.

But both teachers said it involved stress and hard work as well as rewards, and that the support of their mentors was crucial to getting them through.

Mr Lake said: "Be prepared for two years of really hard work - but it'll be worth it."

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24 Nov 04 |  Scotland

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