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Dr Lawrence Foley, Future Academies: How Education Enables Children to Realise Their Potential


Dr Lawrence Foley, Future Academies chief executive, recognises all too well the huge opportunities presented by increasing access to a high-quality education. In 2013, Dr Foley was a proud participant in the Teach First programme, an initiative designed to improve the life chances of young people from impoverished backgrounds.

This article will delve deeper into the work of Teach First, highlighting the many benefits of children receiving a well-rounded education – equipping them with the skills, knowledge and support required to help them fulfil their true potential.

Since 2003, Teach First has been improving the life choices and chances of children experiencing poverty. The organisation has trained teachers and equipped schools in some of the poorest areas of the UK, helping to boost learning provisions for children with the fewest opportunities to access a high-quality education.

Today in the UK, a staggering one in four children live in poverty, lacking the opportunities they need to thrive in school and beyond. Upon leaving school, these young people are more likely to end up out of work. Teach First aims to level the playing field, ensuring that children and young people from all areas and backgrounds can access the learning opportunities they need to succeed.

Experts estimate that when the time comes to sit their GCSEs, children who receive free school meals are approximately 18 months behind, on average. In addition, children who have been excluded from school are four times more likely to come from an impoverished background.

Teach First’s vision is to ensure that every child has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, starting with a great education. The organisation aims to provide all children with the chances needed to be whoever they want to be, irrespective of their background.

Teach First’s impact goals include narrowing the attainment gap for disadvantaged children and young people, with a particular focus on supporting those facing persistent disadvantage. To support young adults, the organisation aims to narrow the destination gap in apprenticeships, training and sustained employment, again with a particular focus on supporting those facing persistent disadvantage.

Outcomes prioritised by Teach First include supporting the transformation of schools in disadvantaged communities, culminating in the creation of a more diverse education system that better reflects the communities it serves. In addition, the organisation aims to encourage people to work together in implementing transformations that benefit disadvantaged children and their schools. Teach First is also lobbying policymakers for policy and systemic changes to benefit disadvantaged children and their schools.

Empowered to strive to reach their full potential and drive meaningful change in the world, this positivity ripples out through children’s families, their workplaces, communities and society as a whole. Having placed over 16,000 teachers in low-income areas, supporting over two million children and inspiring them to fulfil their potential, Teach First has made a disproportionate  contribution to the transformation of schools across London, according to the Centre for London and CfBT Education Trust.

Departments with Teach First trainees achieve significantly improved GCSE results, as well as school leavers benefiting from increased opportunities. Pupils who have participated in Teach First programs are more likely to attend university, with a higher proportion of these students attending a Russell Group university. In the long term, students who receive the support of a Teach First careers leader are more likely to continue their education, enrol on a training scheme or secure employment.

Since the organisation was established in 2003, Teach First has improved the life choices and chances of more than two million young people. Nevertheless, the organisation warns that society is still failing too many children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Teach First stives to drive positive change, starting with ensuring that all young people receive a great education, providing them with the connections, confidence and skills they need to live the lives they want.

Claire James