Those who inspire, teach

Laura Spencely 30 January 2014

The recent BBC3 documentary Tough Young Teachers has been following six newteachers in some of the most challenging schools in the country who are embarking on the two year Teach First Leadership Development Programme. Whilst at times it shows the teachers struggling with the children in their classes, what really needs to be taken from this is the scale of the challenge they are undertaking. As Cambridge students, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the ‘Cambridge bubble’ and forget that not everyone has had access to great education.

This documentary serves as a harsh reminder of the stark inequality that persists in the British educational system. Whilst the vast majority of us will have earned top grades in our GCSE Mathematics, 58% of children on free school meals fail to achieve within the A*-C grade threshold. That’s over half of some of the poorest children failing to leave school with even a pass at GCSE in core subjects like Mathematics. It goes without saying that these children are heavily restricted in what jobs they can do without basic qualifications.

 The reality is that most of us can think of one inspiring teacher: one teacher who believed in us and pushed us to achieve more. Yet, the sad thing is, there simply aren’t enough of those inspiring teachers in the schools where the pupils need it most. That’s because teaching is a tough career, and most who would consider it would never choose some of the most challenging schools in the country.

But this is where teachers can make the biggest impact, and whilst the teachers in the documentary sometimes struggle, and don’t get everything right – they try to make a difference. That’s why I believe in Teach First’s vision; that no child’s educational success should be limited by socioeconomic factors.

It’s fundamentally unfair that a child’s success in life should be determined by something as arbitrary as the family they were born into. Graduates like ourselves taking on the challenges of teaching, however, can completely change this state of affairs. All it takes is one inspirational teacher to change a child’s entire life. These children deserve more, and it’s up to all of us to remember that.