Teach First

28th September 2017

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Supporting our former students into their careers and raising the aspirations of school students from disadvantaged backgrounds are vital strands of Wadham’s Access to Excellence strategy.

Since 2011 Wadham has provided £1000 Teach First bursaries to former students with a passion for educational equality, dedicated to raising the aspirations of the young people in their classrooms and empowering them to build a future that they might not have though possible.  Here three recipients of Wadham Teach First Bursaries share their experiences of the Teach First programme.

  • Justine, Liam and Christopher

Justine Rughooputh (Law, 2012) is teaching Mathematics at a school in Stoke-on-Trent

In June 2015, I graduated from Wadham. Following this, I worked for a year in a school in Lausanne, Switzerland, during which I was accepted on to the Teach First Leadership Development Programme. Teach First is a charity that recruits graduates and places them in secondary schools in deprived areas of the country to teach for two years. With a broad aim of addressing education inequality in the UK, Teach First also aims to address the difficulties schools in more deprived areas of the country have in recruiting teachers.  During the first year of the programme, participants teach up to 80% of qualified teacher’s timetable whilst also studying for a PGCE. They also commit to spending the second year of the programme in their school as a newly qualified teacher.

At the beginning of the Teach First programme participants complete six weeks of training. Following this there are a further six weeks prior to school starting and often another three weeks before they receive their first payslip. I am therefore incredibly grateful that Wadham Access and Admissions provided me with a bursary during this time which made me financially able to complete the Teach First programme. I am proud to have studied at a college that is so willing to support alumni that want to embark on programmes like Teach First that they might otherwise not be able to do. During my time at Wadham I was an access and admissions volunteer and saw the amazing work that the College does to widen access to Oxford for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, like many of the students at my school. Indeed, seeing the impact different events could have in raising the aspirations of these students contributed to me applying to Teach First.

It has been a challenging but rewarding year working for Teach First. I was placed in Stoke-on-Trent teaching secondary Mathematics (having studied Law at Wadham).

It was definitely a steep learning curve at the beginning but having successfully completed the year I can say that though difficult, it has truly been rewarding. Whilst I have had to deal with a high workload, very challenging student behaviour, teaching a subject I have not studied in a while and living in a new area, it has been a pleasure to build relationships with students and see them succeed. A particularly poignant moment was when a student, on discovering I went to Oxford, said “If you went there, why would you want to teach here?” which reminded me how important it is for graduates from universities like Oxford to teach in schools like mine. Next year I will also be working with the Futures programme at Teach First and mentoring two talented A Level students from disadvantaged backgrounds with their applications to University, and I hope to enable them to feel more confident to apply to top universities.

I am incredibly thankful to Wadham for enabling me to complete the Teach First programme and I think their support reflects how committed the college is to widening access to Oxford.

Liam Moran (Physics, 1986) is teaching Physics in East London

I studied Physics at Wadham from 1986 to 1989. On leaving, I completed an accountancy training with one of the large chartered accountancy firms but quickly moved on to a career in finance in retail companies. The decision to put that ugly, huge DIY store on your nearest ring road is one in which I will have usually played some part in; sorry. I built a successful and enjoyable career in finance and could, if challenged, put up a good defence for my Physics degree having given me a skill set in evaluation and analysis which I was using.

In my late forties I had a rethinking of priorities and this is how I found myself in June of 2016 having successfully applied for the Teach First scheme, and looking forward to a new career teaching science in the secondary school in East London which I had been assigned. I have now successfully completed the requirements for my PGCE which should be awarded this summer.

One academic year in, I have combined a full year of teaching across an 11-18 year old age group and I am nervously awaiting the results of those students who took external exams. The children in my school typically come from economically deprived homes and this can needlessly constrain the opportunities and aspirations which the students see in their own futures. They are in real need of talented teachers who can help them aspire to the highest levels of further education.

I would not class myself in the ‘talented teacher’ group yet - I still have much to learn - but I can still see, even with my inexperience, I have developed both their science understanding and more generally their aspirations for further study and opportunity. One of my year 12 Physics students aspires to an Oxbridge education in 18 months’ time. These moments have been enormously rewarding.

Working in London is particularly challenging for teachers given the cost of living, and there are real recruitment struggles particularly in subjects such as Physics. My stage of life, home ownership and family set up mean that I am in the luckier position than most in deciding whether to teach in the capital, but the Wadham bursary was still invaluable in supporting my family and I as I transitioned into this new career.

I look forward to developing further as a teacher in my second year of teaching.

Christopher Bradshaw (Modern History, 1997) will be teaching Mathematics in South London

I would like to record my thanks to the college following receipt of a Wadham College Teach First Bursary. The bursary was very valuable during a summer in which I left my previous employment as a solicitor to participate in the Teach First Summer Institute and to prepare for my new role as a maths teacher at a school in Lewisham. 

The five weeks of training at the Summer Institute was intensive but also inspiring and engaging. It included training in both general and maths-specific pedagogy with tutors from the Institute of Education, as well as the opportunity to spend a week in a London school gaining experience of planning and teaching lessons. I also spent a week in Leeds, attending a two-day conference with a number of external speakers from across the field of education and completing my training together with Teach First participants from across the country. Since completing the Summer Institute, I have spent the remainder of the summer visiting and learning more about my school, exploring the maths curriculum and preparing to start teaching at the start of the new term in September.

Access to higher education is a strong area of interest for me and I look forward to working with the Access Team at Wadham over the coming years in my role as a Widening Participation Associate.

About Wadham Teach First bursaries

Bursary applications for Wadham alumni are forwarded to Wadham by Teach First once graduates have been accepted on the two year programme. Intensive training starts at the end of June and finishes at the end of August with further training throughout the two year programme. The bursary decision is made before summer so that students can use it to cover living costs during the intensive training period. Students who are offered the bursary are encouraged to work with Wadham Access by bringing their schools/classes to visit Wadham whilst they are on placement. Wadham College is grateful to the generosity of alumni who make Teach First bursaries possibly through their support for Wadham’s access and outreach work.