Teach First to target axed trainees for new catch-up mentor roles

Teach First will attempt to recruit the trainees it dropped earlier this year to become mentors under the national tutoring programme (NTP).

The teacher training charity has been handed a £6.44 million contract to recruit and train up to 1,000 academic mentors to support disadvantaged schools.

As part of the government’s catch-up programme, mentors will provide “intensive” tutoring support for pupils and will either have qualified teacher status or a degree with GCSEs passes in English and maths.

Mentors will be paid a £19,000 salary, which will be funded by the government from the £350 million announced for the NTP. But schools will have to pay additional pension and national insurance costs for the mentors.

Mentors also won’t be placed in schools until October. The scheme, called the Teach First Academic Mentoring Programme, will run until July next year.

Teach First dropped 120 of its trainees in June because “many schools” had delayed recruitment amid the coronavirus pandemic. It came despite many of the trainees having already quit their jobs in preparation to train as teachers with the charity.

But a Teach First spokesperson told Schools Week: “Recruits we were unable to find placement schools for earlier this year will meet those requirements and naturally we will be contacting them about this opportunity.”

The charity will recruit candidates for secondary that specialise in English, science, maths, modern foreign languages, humanities. In primary, they’ll focus on literacy and numeracy.

Candidates with QTS will have one week of training, while those without will have two weeks. Training will include safeguarding and pedagogical and subject-specific training.

After training, the charity will provide support staff and additional training sessions throughout their deployment.

Schools serving disadvantaged communities that would qualify to hire teachers through Teach First’s training programme will also be able to hire academic mentors. Schools don’t have to be partnered with the charity to participate.

Russell Hobby, Teach First chief executive, said in a blog today the scheme will give schools in the “most disadvantaged areas access to a pool of trained graduates and career changers, who they can employ to support their pupils.

“These academic mentors will provide intensive learning support, while allowing teachers to focus on delivering lessons. Evidence suggests how effective this kind of small group tuition can be.

“By directly employing academic mentors within each school, their activity and impact can be shaped to the school’s needs and closely monitored. Additionally, the base salaries will be fully government funded, with schools covering other costs such as pension and national insurance contributions.”

He said they will work “closely with head teachers and experts to better understand exactly how to deploy the mentors to best meet their needs and want to hear ideas from across the sector”.

The news the government’s tutoring programme won’t start until October will disappoint the sector. Prime minister Boris Johnson had originally promised a “massive catch-up operation” for pupils over the summer.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said today the delay was because the teaching profession had said they “need to be able to have the ability to do the proper assessment of children as to where their needs are”.

The government announced a £1 billion catch-up package in June. Schools will get £650 million to provide catch-up support for pupils, including spending that on subsidised tutoring.

That will be provided as part of the £350 million National Tutoring Programme, run by the EEF, Sutton Trust, Impetus and Nesta, and split into two strands.

Under “NTP Partners”, schools will get access to “heavily subsidised” tuition sessions for their pupils from an approved list of organisations. The sessions will be subsidised by as much as 75 per cent for the first year, meaning they will cost £12 per session.

Opportunities will be advertised on eligible tutoring organisations and the NTP website.

Teach First will recruit for the “NTP Coaches” strand. In both cases, it will be up to schools to decide how to deploy the tutoring, and whether to use it for individual pupils or small groups.

The NTP is “designed to reach up to two million of England’s most disadvantaged children”.

Schools will be able to decide whether to use tuition sessions in addition to their pupils’ normal school day, or during their timetabled day.