What is Teach First?

Written by Calvin Bowers

Teach First is a two-year programme which takes high-flying graduates with no prior classroom experience, and turns them into qualified teachers. It is the largest teacher training programme in the UK. It is best known for its challenging structure of only five weeks of training before starting in a school.

Teach First are still taking applications for their 2021 cohort, apply now at their website.

What is it? 

Teach First’s primary mission is to create a fairer education system for all. They believe that all children deserve access to the best teachers, education, and resources.

They only partner with schools in low-income areas, where schools struggle to find teachers and students have less access to learning opportunities and resources. By joining the Teach First programme, you are helping to tackle social and economic inequality within education, while removing the barriers that prevent children from fulfilling their potential.

The programme begins with a five-week ‘summer institute’ which will prepare you for the classroom in September. During this time, you will learn about the theory and practice of education, how to manage a classroom of students, as well as support you in growing your subject knowledge.

After the summer institute, you will be placed in a school where you will work for the remainder of the programme. In your first year, you will have 60% of a full timetable, and 80% in the second year.

Throughout the programme, you will be supported by your mentor and the Teach First staff. They will guide you through your personal development as a teacher and ensure you reach all the right milestones. 

Who is it for?

Teach First are actively seeking graduates who have no prior teaching experience. Instead, they want hard-working individuals who have a passion for their subject that they want to share. You will need a 2:1 Degree in any subject (it doesn’t have to be the one you will be teaching), and you must be eligible to work in the UK. Teach First are particularly searching for Science, Maths, and Modern Foreign Languages teachers.

To become a successful teacher with Teach First, you don’t need to have loads of experience or have all the right qualifications. Still, you must be able to display the key characteristics which make a great teacher. These are:

  • Humility
  • Respect and empathy
  • Interacting with others
  • Leadership
  • Planning and organising
  • Problem-solving
  • Resilience
  • Self-reflection

Five things you need to know about Teach First

  • You will be asked to list your location preferences but please note you might not get your first choice and may have to relocate to undertake the programme. As Teach First only partners with schools in low-income areas, it’s not always possible to find you a place in your preferred location.


  • Wherever you go to undertake the programme, there will be other trainees there. You aren’t on your own. Teach First will help you to make contact with these other teachers.


  • Unlike a traditional teacher training qualification, with Teach First, there are no fees and no debt. It’s an incredible opportunity to qualify for no cost to you and be paid while you do so.


  • Your first year’s starting salary is £19,739, increasing as you move into the second year of the programme. The government has also recently announced a pay raise for all teachers, which will increase this salary, starting in 2021.


  • You do not need UK qualifications to apply. Teach First do not exclude those who do not have UK qualifications, and accept applicants from the rest of the world. If you are successful in the first stage of the application process, you must provide evidence of your UK equivalent qualifications.


Last Updated: Tuesday December 15 2020
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