Coronavirus: Teach First drops 120 trainees as schools halt recruitment

Teach First has dropped 120 of its trainees after failing to match all of this year’s cohort with schools.

Trainees said they had been told in a “generic email” to either defer their places or leave the programme, despite some having already quit jobs in preparation.

We are hugely sorry that we’re not able to match all our training programme recruits with a placement school

The charity said it had made the decision because “many schools” had delayed recruitment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Research by SchoolDash published in April showed that teacher recruitment by English secondary schools has fallen by between 50 and 60 per cent on last year.

Schools Week reported earlier this month how a “worryingly high” number of schools have also pulled out of offering teacher training placements as they adapt to a post-pandemic world.

Russell Hobby, Teach First’s CEO, said: “We are hugely sorry that we’re not able to match all our training programme recruits with a placement school.

“As a result of Covid-19 schools have faced huge challenges, meaning many have had to delay teacher recruitment whilst they rightly focus on opening to more pupils.”

Hobby said he knew that teachers were “at the heart of the nation’s recovery and we are deeply sorry for the impact this has on each person”.

“We are contacting everyone affected to explore the support we can offer this year, and the option to start next year when we hope schools will resume normal recruitment of teachers. This difficult situation is no reflection on the potential of these individuals to be great teachers: we simply don’t have access to the vacancies needed.”

Many of those affected have spoken of their disappointment on social media.

One said: “I’m devastated. I have a mortgage to pay and I’ve quit my job for this”, while another said: “The email came as such a shock to me. I left my stable job only on Friday to start the [Teach First] programme and training just next week!”

Another of those affected added: “Shocked that Teach First have cancelled my placement and we received only a generic email. Not to mention they have been recruiting throughout April and there was no mention of this. Heartbroken to say the least but more so for those who have handed in their notice!”

But there have been calls for schools to rally round and support the dropped trainees.

Zoe Andrews, a senior leader and science teacher, said: “Lots of people seem to have lost places, surely we can pull together as a profession to keep these people in the system when we know there are gaps all over the country instead of individuals desperately looking.”

And Emma Hollis, chief executive of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, has offered to “help to broker conversations between candidates and providers in their area”.

Hobby also tweeted that he was “deeply sorry” to trainees who had lost places.

“Sadly yesterday we had to make a terrible decision to reduce our cohort size by 120, disappointing a number of candidates we had hoped to place,” he said this morning.

“I am deeply sorry to them. They are good potential teachers that schools would be lucky to have. If colleagues in sector have places, let us know and we will pass on.

“We have been unable to find enough vacancies in eligible schools in the right subjects and areas. Understandably, schools have been reducing or withdrawing vacancies.”

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  1. This is absolutely disgusting behaviour – Teach First must have known this was likely to be a problem before now and yet they have waited till now to tell trainees, when most of them will already have given notice at their jobs. People who have made a commitment to Teach First will end up with no job and no place on a training programme. Unfortunately this is something Teach First do every year – it’s just on a bigger scale than usual this year. Two years ago they told me they were withdrawing my place as they hadn’t found enough placements in primary, and they only told me TWO DAYS before I was due to start training. When I complained, they simply referred me to the fine print of the terms and conditions, which say they reserve the right to withdraw places at any time at their sole discretion. I know from talking to other trainees that the same thing happens on a regular basis – I certainly wasn’t the only one that year.

  2. Daniel

    Same thing has happened to me with a different provider. The so-called “teacher shortage” must be a joke. Half a year of my life (and possibly more if I wait until January like they want) wasted. When I finally do get my PGCE, I’ll be taking it abroad as soon as I can.

  3. Just to clarify- I am at a school that has had Teach First participants for the last 3 years. I am in my second year as a Teach First participant. They have not taken any candidates this year, not because of Covid, but because they have been flouting the rules re release time/mentor meetings/general support and Teach First finally (after a fight) have made a point of standing up to it. TF definitely has its flaws but schools love to take advantage of people they know are willing to work hard.