Simon Coyle, a 2008 Teach First Ambassador, studied Economics, Politics and International Studies at Warwick, taught Citizenship, History and Economics in London and is now the Brilliant Club, a social enterprise.
Towards the end of university I was stood on the porch of our house in Leamington and I just decided there and then that Teach First was the only thing that I wanted to do after I graduated. Via a broken knee, a postponed application form and a successful assessment centre, I was accepted on to the Leadership Development Programme to join the 2008 cohort. I was placed in a North London school to teach Citizenship, History and Economics.
On reflection, I think the reasons that I applied to Teach First were that I wanted to be well outside my comfort zone (which I was), to do something a bit off the beaten track (deepest, darkest Enfield) and to wake up to a job I believed in (though, sadly, usually before dawn).
Make no bones about it: teaching is an incredibly challenging thing to do. It is also hilarious, maddening, eye-opening, frustrating, rewarding, exhausting, motivating and hectic. Always hectic. It is rarely dull, uneventful, or run-of-the-mill. Or not hectic.
If you're reading this and are thinking that "that sounds awful" then, let’s face it, teaching probably won't be your thing. On the other hand, if you're reading this and are in some way finding yourself attracted to a career (or a career change) that speaks to the heart, engages the brain in a hundred ways every day and opens the door to an incredible range of cultures, skills and professional opportunities then teaching probably should be your thing.
Teach First is a great way to become a teacher, especially if you are currently working and are not in a position to take a pay cut and study for a year. The training is first rate (according to OFSTED as well as me) and the sense of shared purpose and camaraderie amongst participants is fantastic (OFSTED don't assess for that one, so you'll have to take my word). Moreover, the opportunities that Teach First provide for their ambassadors are excellent and they can really help springboard you to future leadership positions in or outside of the school setting.
After two years on the programme, I chose to leave the classroom to start a charity with a good friend of mine, Jonny Sobczyk, who I came to know through Teach First. Our charity, The Brilliant Club, exists to widen access to highly selective universities by recruiting, training and placing PhD students in non-selective state schools to deliver programmes of university-style teaching to small groups of talented pupils.
Having grown from a project that started in March 2011 with two PhD students (Jonny’s sister’s housemates) and worked with just 19 pupils, The Brilliant Club has this year placed 150 PhD students to work with over 3,000 pupils in London, the South East and the Midlands. Next year we will double that. And within five years we will help 15,000 talented pupils nationwide to overcome barriers to higher education that they face through no fault of their own.
I graduated five years ago now and, when I look back at my time at Warwick, half of me is quite proud of what myself, Jonny and the rest of our team have achieved. Unfortunately, the other half of me is intermittently panicked that we haven't achieved even nearly enough yet, and that so much remains to be done to eliminate educational disadvantage in this country.
I think I can thank Teach First for both of these things. I certainly would not have started The Brilliant Club had I not joined the Teach First programme. Indeed, given that in my second year, ‘joining the Teach First programme’ constituted my sole career plan, I have no idea what I would be doing now if I hadn’t been accepted! Likewise, had I not joined the programme I very much doubt that I would have found myself in the position I am now, where I feel motivated and equipped to build The Brilliant Club into a national charity.
My top five reasons in no particular order for why Warwick students should take up the Teach First challenge are: (i) Teaching gives you superpowers, (ii) It is a genuine privilege to work with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, (iii) Those pupils deserve good teachers, (iv) Even with a pay freeze, teaching is a well-paid job with lots of opportunities for progression, and (v) Because I just double-dared you
Teach First gives you the opportunity to make a difference, become an inspirational teacher and leader in the movement to address educational disadvantage. If you would like to apply for the Leadership Development Programme you will need to register your interest and fill in an online application at www.teachfirst.org.uk. Our website also features information on the programme, our vision, the selection process and the range of subjects we recruit into. We recruit on a rolling basis and will fill our vacancies as soon as we find those candidates that meet our competency and academic requirements. Some subjects fill very early, therefore we recommend that you apply as soon as possible.
Applications to start in September 2013 closing soon. www.teachfirst.org.uk