Mel Nethercott | Teach First

Our people

Mel Nethercott

  • Studied: Social Sciences, University of St Andrews
  • Taught: Primary, London
  • Now: Education Consultant, CfBT Trust

For me, the most important thing about a graduate job was whether or not I deemed it to be ethical. I didn’t want profit to be the main priority of the organisation I worked for. I felt like I needed a ‘real’ challenge rather than the academic challenges I’d faced so far at school and university. Teach First had all of that in bucketloads! It was going to throw me in at the deep end and offer me something completely different to anything I had done before.

I grew up abroad in some fairly poor developing countries and so I have always been very aware of the importance of education and how it can be a way out of the economic disadvantage that so many people are born into. The mission of Teach First was especially important to me because it’s addressing that same issue in a developed country where there is still, surprisingly, such a huge attainment gap. I wanted to really tackle inequality in a system which prevents children from achieving purely because of what their parents earn. I feel very strongly that whatever your socio-economic status may be, it should have no part in predetermining your life trajectory.

I think that is deeply unjust and it’s not right. I think there is a big difference between teaching and delivering a lesson. Delivering a lesson is sticking to the lesson plan and, maybe, if you’ve pitched it wrong or the strategies you’re using to try and achieve the lesson objective aren’t working, you keep going with the lesson because that's what you’ve planned. Teaching is all about being able to adapt, change and use a multitude of strategies, techniques and resources to get that child to actually understand what you’re doing and think about it for themselves. However, this all comes with time and experience; you have to fake it before you make it.

I’m so proud of the fact that in all of my classes, every single child made progress. 80% of them met the required national expectations of two sublevels in Maths and English, which is reading and writing. Most of them exceeded those expectations and that is quantifiable evidence that I had an impact on their attainment. That feels great.

The support from Teach First is fantastic because it’s all about supporting you in practice; they want to help you become a good teacher. You have your mentors within school and your subject tutors out of school. You can also call up anyone at Teach First and ask for help and you have your cohort meetings. In your second year, it’s all about extending you as a teacher and then starting to network with other professionals if that’s what you are interested in.

I now work for another education charity where almost everyone in the organisation has either been a teacher or has been involved in education or educational research. They’re all experts so I am so very thankful for my time and the experience I gained at Teach First.

I could not do what I do now without having a really thorough understanding of what teachers have to do and how you can support them in schools to deliver even better education. My first hand experience means that I can go into work confident that I know what I’m talking about. Every single day I go to work with the aim, the sole aim, of improving education around the world. So I’m still very much engaged with the Teach First mission.