Quality comes at a price

Teach First have recently filed their accounts with the Charity Commission for the year ended 31st August 2012. Anyone interested can read them at http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends94/0001098294_AC_20120831_E_C.pdf

There is no doubt a lot to be said for the school-based approach to converting graduates into teachers for two years in the hope that some will remain in the profession. 89% of those who started the programme in 2010 completed their two years in teaching. Curiously, although 80% became ambassadors for the programme after two years, the review accompanying the accounts seemingly doesn’t say how many remained in teaching for a third year. As numbers on the programme grow that performance indicator assumes more importance because if it is below the figure for other types of teacher preparation programme, such as School Direct or the higher education routes, it will be a hidden cost because it will require extra numbers to be trained as teachers. Of course, if it is lower than wastage through other routes Teach First can claim to be more cost effective.

Located in an expensive part of London, even though it is now a national programme, the accounts reveal a cost base that many teacher trainers can only view with awe. The average salary with on-costs for the 216 employees in 2011-12 was £48,000, with the Chief Executive earning a salary similar to one of the best paid secondary heads in a London Academy. Although the trustees weren’t paid, one did claim the equivalent of £400 per week in travel, subsistence and office costs for the second year in a row. That’s over £40,000 across the two years. No doubt their experience is unique and cannot be replicated for less.

Still you would have thought a programme that has trainees placed in schools wouldn’t need to spend much money on rent for offices. Teach First appears to have spent around £750 per trainee on premises costs and rent, although since they also run other programmes it might be better to halve that figure to £375 per trainee. Similarly, the £1,450 staff costs might be better reduced to £700 to allow for the other programmes. Whether it is possible to reduce the £4,600,000 spent on graduate recruitment by spreading it across other programmes may be more of a moot point. Using the 7,000 applications received in 2012 that works out at around £650 per applicant. If you just look at how much it cost per successfully recruited participant the figure is nearer £4,500. This is the equivalent of the DfE spending £46 million on recruitment for School Direct or universities more than £80 million on attracting students to PGCE programmes. It would be nice to see these figures benchmarked both against other graduate recruitment programmes and against the less well-funded teacher preparation programmes. In their 2008 accounts the Charity spend £1.1 million to recruit 373 new trainees, so there doesn’t yet seem to be any economies of scale in the recruitment process. Undoubtedly the assessment centre process used by Teach First is expensive, but I well remember being told it couldn’t be afforded for trainee head teachers, so should it be part of selecting new teachers?

The next few years may be testing times for the Teacher First programme as it has to compete with both a recovery in the wider graduate recruitment market and the growing School Direct programme that seemingly offers many of the same benefits to would-be career teachers without the need to work in a challenging school. Hopefully, they those managing the programme will be able to rise to the task without having to spend even more money to achieve their goals.

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