The New Philanthropy – Frontline and the lessons of Teachfirst

The following post is an opening to a series of posts aimed at giving some coherence to  my thoughts about Frontline, pulling together and sharing the pieces of information I have researched about Frontline, its antecedents, its ‘core’ project and some of the wider implications it has for the SW in England at least. This has led me into having a good look at what is going on with the ‘state’ in state education in England as it provides the original template for the Frontline.

Screen Shot 2013-10-05 at 16.37.24

The story of Frontline and the New philanthropy has to start with the Ark Children’s Charity.

ARK children’s charity – Absolute Return for Kids states that it ‘is an international organisation whose purpose is to change children lives, in the areas of health, education and child protection. It is registered charity with stated charitable aims . It is also a company limited by Guarantee.

The Ark – Absolute Return for Kids was founded by 3 big City financiers who operate in the world of Hedge Funds. The three founders manage Hedge Funds worth multiple billions of pounds and come in the top  300  wealthiest in the UK.  Ark has extensive leverage in terms of  fundraising and has left older  charities following in its vapour trails. It has raked in more than £150 million from individual donors via its Annual Gala dinner [1] and attracted a further £250 million and counting, from governments and NGOs.

It runs a number of Academy schools and ’incubates’ the following social enterprises, Frontline, Mathematics  Mastery and  Expanding Horizons. It incubated Teaching Leaders and Future Leaders and has continued involvement with the Future Leaders Charitable Trust Ltd and Teaching Leaders, it’s not just that they share the same office address; these organisations are part of the so called Ark Family.

The Ark Family is also operates in partnership with  Teach first ,  the  progenitor for the new class of professional in ‘teaching’ and is playing a key role in Michael  Gove’s  schools revolution,  a process begun with New Labour .

I never heard of the Ark until I was invited to by Frontline as it is one of three founding partners the others being the Boston Global Group and the other Big Change ( Holly Bransons Yp charity.) On its newly launched  website  is advises that :

‘Frontlines mission is to transform the lives of vulnerable children by recruiting  and developing outstanding individuals to be leaders in social work and wider society …… participants will work as frontline children’s social workers  undertaking child protection work which will change lives’

In order to make sense of the importance of  this enfant terrible among us I found a great comparator in tracing the Teach First story. This story encompasses the following : the emergence of New Philanthropy (NP) and its involvement in Networks of Governance and Government , the role of Mckinsey and its  7’s Framework in the  reconstruction of ‘public service delivery ‘as values akin to  those of the market.

I read about NP in the work  of Stephen Ball, Karl Mannheim  Professor of  the Sociology of Education at  the I.O.E . I don’t claim the  next bit is  comprehensive or even  that I get it all   but  it gave  me a way into understanding  the Frontline effect. To  start with you cannot talk bout   NP in England without  reference to Social Enterprise  and  neoliberal Public Policy Units .  According to Ball:

‘The discourse of enterprise in its various forms is a crucial component in the  operationalization of the 3rd way ‘  and that NP  works as both as:

‘a reforming narrative  and as an effective  infrastructure  of network governance’.

Ball asserts that the:

‘boundaries between  philanthropy, business and the public sector are being moved and blurred , the public sector  generally  is being worked on and reworked  by new policy actors’  in  endogenous and exogenous ways … in particular  through the dissemination  of the values of enterprise and entrepreneurship  and the transposition of the international discourse of  managerialism ’.

This for me  strongly relates to the emphasis  of Frontline  et al place on’Leadership’.

Ball goes on to say that: ‘The need to embody these metaphors in the public sector workforce’ is seen as ‘a key to the successful transformation of the public sector.’

Now as part of this transformation project of the state, Ball refers to the emergence of ‘new forms of network governance ‘ which makes , facilitates and operationalizes the reformed state. A key role of certain  actors in these networks is that they   make real   the requirement to:

‘Install new values and modes of action in the public sector so that they become legitimated.’

As a consequence:  ‘Old forms of moral authority are diminished or derided.’ Ball advises that this process does require as a necessity , ‘A Substitution of both actors and of values’.

NP in all its forms is a ‘key device’ in this transformative project to reconstruct the state.   New philanthropy is seen as ‘ new’ because of the explicit  relationship between ‘the giving’ and the desired  ‘outcomes ‘and the  explicit and at times opaque relationship  New Philanthropists have in  policy forums and as constitutive parts of  networks which have a number of  nodes directly connected to ‘government’ and non- governmental but powerful organisations. Frontline like Teachfirst is one of these ‘nodes’ operating within and outside of these networks.[2].

The  NP  involved in  social and educational policy and its  philanthropic heart   comes   from the financial and  investment sectors , those who describe themselves as ‘wealth creators ‘ and are fully wired into and co-constructors of the  international managerialism discourse  referred to by Ball as represented by the major Consultancy Management Companies such as  BGG one of Frontlines founders.

These Big Management Consultancy’s (BMCs) have significant social and   public sector portfolios and have key political relationships in the world of policy units and direct links to   government. They have spent over 30 years  ‘assisting’ governments in  developing ‘transformation and change’ which basically offers  various market based solutions and hybrid civic and market solutions as  the state is redefined and reworked . These solutions such as  public / private partnerships  ,  developing services to ‘manage demand’,   privatisation, marketization such as   outsourcing are familiar to us and have  histories of failure and ‘success’.

New philanthropists, (aided by  Policy Units such as Policy Exchange and CentreForum, IPPR for the 3rd way wonks ) are playing their part in this transformation by intensively promoting  the development of new  cultures and values in particular parts of the social and educational domains through support to specific types of social enterprise and ‘charitable’ activity that are congruent with the  political and economic objectives of neoliberalism. They are extremely effective at  ‘borrowing’ and appropriating  bits of useful  knowledge about the public sector as they are  closely  linked to BMC who by their own involvement in the public sector are able to reuse the knowledge  they have gained from the public sector  to  change  or even replace it.

Ball argues that the state is not however disappearing but is being reconstituted as a centralised power  that can enforce (through a process of stick and carrots) this new order on the remaining  public institutions yet keeps experimenting with new forms of delivery and the development of multiple sites for practice and action in the delivery of services  a process accelerated through Austerity. One of the consequences of this is the draining of resources away from the rest of the public body , weakening its structural and strategic capabilities .

At least one of the mechanisms needed for transformation at the level of changes to everyday practices, values and methods can be traced in the Teach First story and this is being enacted with lessons learned into the Frontline project.

Waterman, Peters and Phillips  rewrote the Mckinsey rule book in 1980 when they produced in their  article  ‘Structure is not organisation , the  Mckinsey 7’s framework. I  understand there are many  theories of management and organisational change and I don’t purport to know much about  them but given  Mckinseys essential role in UK governments transformation projects and the fact that  TF and Frontline have as CEO’s ex Mckinsey consultants  it seemed important to me to get a handle on this consultant to CEO  class.  Now I am going to quote something from this article which just encapsulates its credo for achieving change and gaining the competitive edge ‘over ones rivals’:

Our assertion is that productive organisational change is not simply a matter of structure, although structure is important .It is not so simple as the interaction between strategy and structure , although strategy is critical too. Our claim is that effective organisational change is really the relationship between structure, strategy, systems, style, skills, staff and something we call superordinate goals’.

Superordinate goals has been replaced by the concept of shared Values .

Any of this seem familiar to anyone? Just check out Morning Lanes website and the role this played in the development of RCSW.

‘Placing Shared Values in the middle of the model emphasizes that these values are central to the development of all the other critical elements. The company’s structure, strategy, systems, style, staff and skills all stem from why the organization was originally created, and what it stands for. The original vision of the company was formed from the values of the creators. As the values change, so do all the other elements’. [3

Shared values for staff emphasises loyalty to the brand, the programme , the vision which  works alongside the commitment to the fidelity of the process.So you become the teachfirst teacher or the frontline Social Worker.

The next paragraphs will look at Teachfirst as a model for Frontline exposing the link to NP in the form of the Ark and the ideas of networks of policy and networks of Governance in the transformation of the state.

The Teachfirst model is based on the Teach For America programme. According to the website of Future leaders:

Brett Wigdortz wrote the original business plan for Teach First while working as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. He has been CEO since July 2002.

Before coming to London, he was a consultant in Indonesia, Singapore, and Manila. Prior to McKinsey, Brett developed policy and business programmes at the Asia Society in New York City. He has worked as a journalist in Asia and as a researcher at the East-West Centre in Honolulu.

He is a trustee of Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) and is co-founder, trustee & chief strategy advisor of Teach For All. In 2007 he was named UK Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year and won in 2010 Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) European Leadership Award.

TF  is a charity , Lord Adonis is one of its  Trustees, Its  charitable object is : ‘ to advance the education of the public’, TF:‘Believe in a vision for the future where no child’s educational success is limited by their socio-economic background. We are working to end inequality in education by building a community of exceptional leaders who create change within classrooms, schools, and across society.’

At its  core is the  belief articulated by its founder and CEO  Brett Wigdortz is  that in order to tackle the social problem of so called educational disadvantage:

‘TF aims to bring about foundational , systemic change .So the core  Teachfirst  aim is to bring in new practises  and new practitioners to bear upon educational problems and change the way these problems are addressed across the whole  educational system…

According to Brett:

“… it’s really critical to get the best teachers into the most challenging schools, really support them to make as big an impact as possible and then long-term to create systemic change with our alumni group, our ambassadors. So it’s really to get the most talented people to teach and lead in the most challenging schools and really supports them to make as big an impact as possible recruiting the brightest graduates to take up teaching for two years in so called challenged schools.”

I think if you replace schools with ‘social care’ offices and teaching with’ Social work ‘you can hear how much Josh is channelling Brett. Not old Etonians but old Mckinsey-ians , if there is such a  conjunctive.

In less than 11 years TF has gone   from a small scale initiative welcomed by all political parties and the  Teaching Profession and its Unions , into the largest recruiter of Teachers trained  though the work based route. Along the way the  some 45-60% of alumni who remain in education are significant contributors to the  growing educational business sector and  are taking the lead in the setting up of Free schools  which of course don’t need qualified teachers and are in academies  schools, Ark and others .One of the many  criticisms of TF is that it defines what a challenge school is,  so that can be where over 90% of children are  entitle to FSM  down to 30%. Not surprisingly it is feted by Ofsted

Now let’s look at the Network of governance that makes TF a node in all the possible meanings.

TF is in a partnership with ARK (just an aside its  first  main backer was Lehman Brothers and it  suffered a financial crisis in 2008 as its main financier  collapsed however this lost finance was replaced by ‘others’) However, it had partners in financial services such as Suisse Credit and its partnership with ARK adds to  a network connected  to ARK backed  sister organisations , Future Leaders,  Teaching Leaders  and now Frontline whom have confirmed to me via  Twitter ‘that they are not a charity but an Ark Programme which is a Charity.’

A key adviser to ARK is Baroness Morgan of Huyton. She is also adviser to the Network for  New Schools – the  organisation directly  contracted to the DFE to promote and support Free Schools. She  is s also chair of the Future Leaders Trust which supports the development of Teachers  who  wish to advance in their  careers as leaders by  providing a 3 year Leadership programme  which is funded by  the DFE. Brett is a board member for Future Leaders.  Baroness Morgan of Huyton is also a member of the Board  for Frontline .

She is also Chair  of Ofsted.  Just to add to this list of the great and the powerful  in this network ,  Sir Mike Wilshaw  Chief Inspector of Schools was ARKS former Director of Education ( Pt) and TFs patron is the HRH Prince of Wales.

Now Future leaders are a very important part of the TF story. The NCSL ( national College for School Leadership) was set up in 2000 one of its directors was Baroness Huyton. Now the NCSL was a 3rd way project  beloved of Adonis, funded by  the secretary  of State for Education , to support New Labours fascination that market  structures, strategies, cultures and values should be applied to  the education  of our children Schools were a  business and  as great companies apparently have great leaders , schools  should have the ‘uber’ Head teacher. In April 2012 the NCSL merged with the Teaching Agency and became the National College for teaching and leadership ( the NCTL). The NCTL is an executive Agency of Government

According to the DfE website its principal aims are to enable leaders to lead school and system improvement in partnership with each other; maintain the supply of high quality leaders for our schools and children’s centres and support leaders in identifying and developing the next generation; improve the quality of leadership and, in particular, support leaders in improving teaching and closing achievement gaps for all groups. It runs two programmes one of them being Schools direct. Schools direct is a route offered to schools to directly recruit the teachers they need and trained them in the work place conferring Teaching Status on them. It has the  power to grant Teaching Status on  schools who can become suppliers to other schools. At the same time as the DfE is supporting Schools direct it has significantly cut the funding to University’s for PGCE places which has led to many HEI withdrawing or considering from withdrawing from teaching teachers. For example BATH was advised that funding for PGCE graduates would be cut from 90 to 30 .

I am not really interested in the claims made about TF especially the claims it makes for itself, there is no independent study that demonstrates any substantial Teachfirst effect. What I am interested in is that  it operationalizes a particular ideology which is on the one hand destatalizing and transferring   public assets to charitable and other enterprises wedded to a political philosophy.

You don’t have to take my word for it  , here’s  a nice quote from a speech given by   Gove  this summer

‘ Many of those making the biggest difference in academies and free schools are alumni of Teach First or members of its sister organisations Teaching Leaders and Future Leaders. All three are charities designed to recruit outstanding young people who are academically distinguished and who have also demonstrated real leadership ability into classrooms in our most challenging communities. They explicitly bypass the old teacher recruitment routes and thus challenge the monopoly of the old teacher training colleges.

The evidence so far indicates that they are making a dramatic — and welcome — difference to every school in which they operate. And these charities — by explicitly targeting students with the best degrees from top universities — have helped change the profile of teaching overall by leading a new generation of academically accomplished undergraduates into the profession. That’s why the coalition government has increased their funding — to allow Teach First to quadruple in size and encourage Teaching Leaders and Future Leaders to work in more schools. And we’ve sought to apply those lessons more widely.

That ambition is undeniably radical. In fact, it’s the realisation of a long-cherished but never yet fulfilled liberal dream.

For most of human history most individuals have had their futures determined by forces beyond their control. Most men and women were hewers of wood and drawers of water-condemned to manual jobs dictated by where they grew up and who their parents were. They had no effective control over their economic lives, and thus very little control over their destinies. They never had the chance to fulfil themselves, or shape the world. They were the village Hampdens, the mute inglorious Miltons, the 99 out of 100 children who left that Merseyside school at 16 without five good GCSEs.

But education can change that. There is nothing fixed about any child’s future. Deprivation need not be destiny. If the right professionals — under the right leadership, with the right level of ambition — are given the freedom to teach the subjects they love in a disciplined environment, then any child can succeed.’

Transformations are   very hard to achieve    and embed without the necessary  significant cultural  changes-  so you  can either replace the  staff , establish  parallel new institutions and networks  that embody new values  in a new class of the professionals  to be  special cadre of leaders who will  take positions of leadership and lead  the changes  required inside the wider  organisations  who are part of these ‘innovators for change’ and others who are ‘incentivised’ to comply either  with ‘new’  monies , investments in reputation, kudos, special status and  other methods  such as regulatory condemnation.


At TF you are inducted into the TF methodology and beliefs. You are loyal to Teach First not to the long history and loyalty to teaching the teaching profession as a whole. As with Frontline who call their potential recruits ‘Frontline children’s Social workers’. One can see  the footprints  of Mckinsey in all the ARK family tree  and in Frontline.

My  next blog will look at Frontline’s network of governance which reflects much of TF.   I will also consider how and where Frontline can be put further to test as it continues it plans for growth are still formulating . 

[1] The  Ark Gala Dinner is a  demonstration of the excess of wealth concentrated in the  hands of a  few powerful financiers who have  taken up the New Philanthropy .I read a comment in the Financial times which alluded to the reasons it cancelled  the 2013 Gala was because it was   apparently being criticised by other backers for looking a bit 1788 you know ‘let them all eat cake’

[2] In a network, a node is a connection point, either a redistribution point or an end point for data transmissions. In general, a node has programmed or engineered capability to recognize and process or forward transmissions to other nodes