Learning with Teach First

by Ateka Tarajia on 1 December 2014


Last spring, I entered the Teach First “What would you change?” competition, which asks for suggestions as to how the education system in this country could be changed for the better. As I was applying to study Education with History at Cambridge at the time, I was already thinking about equality of opportunity in the education system – especially the admission of those from underprivileged and minority backgrounds into prestigious universities. My proposal for the competition was that all state schools, and perhaps especially those in “low-participation” areas, should have a compulsory “elite university scheme”, whereby dedicated staff helped prepare potential applicants for the admissions processes used by the most selective universities. The fact that I was going through an admissions process myself made me very aware of the preparation necessary to secure a place at Cambridge. I felt it was very important for applicants to be guided by someone who understood how the process worked, especially if they did not have a history of university education in their family.

Shortly after receiving my offer from Lucy Cavendish, I was informed that my proposal had been shortlisted by Teach First, and that I had to present it to a panel of judges at a conference venue at the House of Lords. This was something of a shock, as I had only entered the competition on a whim. However, I went along and gave a presentation with the greatest assurance I could muster. Later that day, I discovered I had won the competition, and secured the internship.

Fast forward a year later, and I was standing outside a beautiful building overlooking the river Thames, scared at what lay in store for me over the next two weeks. I had imagined that it would be a fortnight of making tea and filing – I was wrong. I was asked to investigate ways in which Teach First could expand its services in the primary sector more effectively, and which strategies could be employed to secure long-term growth.

Upon my arrival, a lovely lady from the School Relationships team, Natasha Reynolds, gave me a lowdown on how the charity ran, and plenty of literature on more intricate matters such as the experience of Teach First in the primary sector so far. I was also given a project outline and a timetable, which filled me with apprehension! My project involved carrying out telephone interviews with regional officers, and attending sessions and meetings in order to establish areas for improvement in Teach First’s work in the primary sector. The first meeting and calls were nerve-wracking, but by the end of my first week I felt confident in the questions I was asking and able to interview more effectively. My background as an education student allowed me to understand some of the core issues that Teach First addresses and which the charity helps combat in schools via the Fair Education Impact Goals

On the last day of my internship, I had to present my report to the School Relationships team, which was both the most frightening and most fulfilling event of the fortnight, as it prompted a real discussion amongst the team on the issues I had raised. On a more personal level, the internship has definitely encouraged me to think about applying for Teach First’s Leadership Development Programme. All in all a very positive experience!