How to succeed in Teach First applications and assessments: recruiter Q&A

Heena works in the recruitment team at Teach First and has responded to some of the most commonly asked questions.

Q. What is the best thing an applicant can do?

Make the most of the resources, hints and tips available to you on the Teach First website – and get in touch with Teach First. The organisation is on hand to go through the details of your application and can offer tailored advice on both your eligibility for the Leadership Development Programme and how you can demonstrate the competencies sought. You can arrange a call by emailing At this stage Teach First isn't there to assess you but to ensure you have all the relevant information needed to submit the strongest possible application.

Q. What are the stages of the Teach First selection process?

1. You’ll start by completing the online application form. The application asks for your degree and pre-degree academic qualifications, information about yourself and any preferences you may have with regards to the programme. Teach First also asks you to complete three competency-based questions and a situational judgement test.

2. Your application will be screened by two trained assessors who won’t have access to any of your personal details, to ensure a bias-free process, and you’ll hear the outcome of this within 10 working days. If you’re successful you’ll be invited to one of the assessment days, which are held at the organisation's national office in London. As part of the application you can opt for a date either within the next four weeks or at a later date.

3. The assessment day consists of attending a competency-based interview, participating in a group case study and teaching a sample lesson. As part of your invitation to the assessment centre you will receive more details on these elements, as well as travel and other general information. Ten days before your assessment you will receive a list of lesson titles and will need to select one of these to base your sample lesson on. You will also receive a call from Teach First, which is your chance to ask any questions and to hear about the structure of the day. There will also be an opportunity to discuss what the possible outcomes may be. With preparation for the day it can be easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the seven-minute lesson, but each element of the assessment carries equal weighting, so it is important to spend time preparing for the interview and thinking about how you might demonstrate our competencies in the group task.

4. You will hear back within three weeks of your assessment. If you’re successful you will receive a provisional offer for a curriculum area and the location you would be based in during the programme. It will also include information on the tasks you need to complete to confirm your offer, including:

  • Sending reference details covering the previous two years
  • Booking in your QTS tests (the government’s pre-teacher-training tests in numeracy and literacy)
  • Completing a curriculum knowledge assessment. In this, you'll develop an action plan of how you’ll get yourself up to speed with knowledge of the subject(s) you will teach. This will be assessed by a tutor from one of Teach First’s partner universities

5. Once these tasks have been approved you’ll receive a confirmed offer and begin preparations to join the Leadership Development Programme.

Q. What are the Teach First competencies?

Teach First has eight competencies, which form a fundamental part of what it looks for in candidates:

  • Humility, respect and empathy
  • Interaction
  • Understanding and motivation
  • Leadership
  • Planning and organising
  • Problem solving
  • Resilience
  • Self-evaluation

Each is outlined on the Teach First website, detailing what its assessors are looking for.

Q. Can I teach the age group or subject I want?

Teach First’s eligibility is determined by the schools it works with and by its university partners, so do have a look at the organisation's requirements. Not all curriculum areas are available in every location, so it’s important that you look into this early on in the process.

You may be eligible to teach from your pre-degree qualifications, such as A-levels, Scottish Advanced Highers or other equivalent qualifications.

You may have strong initial views about where you want to work and what you want to teach and you can rank these preferences on your application form. Teach First will take this into account but please be aware the focus is on placing highly motivated individuals where they are most needed. If you have extenuating circumstances that mean you need to stay in a particular location, please speak to the organisation  about this as soon as you open your application so it can advise you.

Q. What is the closing date?

Applications open in August for a start the following September. We recruit on a rolling basis, which means curriculum areas close as soon as we have found enough participants to fill the places we have available for that area.

Applications remain open for eight weeks before being shut down. If you have any problems completing the application form in this timeframe do get in touch with us.

Q. If I don’t think I have all the competencies. Should I hold off applying until I do?

You aren't expected to demonstrate the competencies from one particular experience. Think about all of your experiences, whether they are from a professional, personal, academic, volunteering, hobby or sporting activity. If you are unsure about meeting the competency requirements speak to the people who know you best as they may recall examples where you have demonstrated the skills and behaviours we’re looking for.

On the application form, you select the third competency Teach First assess you on – so it’s a perfect opportunity for you to demonstrate the competency you feel most confident about.

Q. Do you have any advice on how to structure my online application answers to the competency questions?

For questions 2 and 3 Teach First want you to tell it about a time when you have demonstrated the particular competency and its behaviours. Think about one specific example you can talk about in detail, rather than briefly mentioning two or three different instances when you have demonstrated it.

When you have selected your best example, use the CAR technique to structure your answer:

  • Context – Explain the situation or problem
  • Actions – What did you do? Go into as much detail as possible – not just what you did but how you decided on that action or why you decided on a certain approach
  • Results – What impact did your actions have on the situation or problem?

The competency ‘Understanding and motivation’, which is assessed in question 1, is looking for you to demonstrate your passion for Teach First's vision, mission and the Leadership Development Programme. With this question the assessors want you to talk about three elements: the vision, the programme and the ambassador network. These aren’t just suggestions of topics to cover but areas the assessors would like you to discuss.

Q. What does the situational judgement test involve?

This test will give a number of school-based scenarios with a number of possible approaches. You will need to rate how appropriate each approach would be. There isn’t a right and wrong answer and each applicant will approach situations differently, so go with your instinct.

Q. What would let me down in the selection process?

Not demonstrating Teach First's competencies or demonstrating the opposite of what it is looking for. This is applicable at both the application and the assessment centre stages.

In the application form spelling and grammar is also being assessed so do read through before submitting it. Any more than five mistakes and your application will be automatically rejected.

Q. I don’t have any work experience in a school. Do I need it?

No, Teach First look for you to tell it how you have demonstrated the competencies in the experiences you have had. Prior to starting the programme you will be asked to arrange school observations and you will also attend the five-week Summer Institute to prepare you to head into the classroom.

Summer Institute is a mix of learning theories and techniques that will help you in the classroom and offers the chance to trial these techniques in a school. At the end of the five weeks you will have all the tools you’ll need to start at your school in September.

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