NUT Cymru has raised concerns that Teach First, which is supported with funding from the Welsh government, has established links with private companies including supermarket chain Aldi and investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Union leaders have questioned the value of spending thousands of pounds recruiting and training new teachers, only to promote the “transferability of skills and leadership from the classroom to positions of influence”.
Teach First, which has regional offices across the UK, lists Accenture, Aldi, Goldman Sachs, Civil Service Fast Stream and PricewaterhouseCoopers as its “platinum partners”.
Having worked in England for more than 10 years it secured a contract in 2012 with the Welsh government to deliver the Additional Training Graduate Programme (ATGP) which is an initiative to improve schools and to support young people who face educational disadvantage.
The programme began this academic year with 40 new recruits taking up posts in secondary schools in Wales and will run until 2016.
David Evans, secretary of NUT Cymru, said: “One of the major concerns we have raised with alternative routes into teaching, such as Teach First, is that without adequate preparation and training, those going into schools will not stay in the profession in the long-term.
“It is worrying, therefore, that Teach First themselves are actively promoting careers outside teaching through their website. It will no doubt raise questions about the value for money that Teach First offers. Why would the Welsh government wish to continue to divert funding from traditional teacher training routes to Teach First if that public investment is being used as some sort of free training scheme for private companies?”
NUT Cymru is concerned that just 54 per cent of Teach First participants have remained in the profession long-term since 2003.
Jennifer Owen-Adams, director of Teach First Wales, said participants are subject to a rigorous training programme and retention rates were comparable with other routes into teaching.
She added: “Teach First is not a replacement for other routes into teaching. Our unique offer is to recruit and train teachers in schools specifically in low-income and challenging areas, often attracting people who would not otherwise have considered going into teaching.
“As a charity established with the support of individuals and organisations across the sectors, we are proud of all of our partnerships, including those with business. We believe that because educational inequality is such an ingrained problem, we will only eradicate it through the collective effort of leaders outside of the classroom.
“So, while many of our ambassadors choose to remain in the classroom, others have gone on to tackle the problem in the wider education system, government, business and the third sector.”
The Welsh government said it was monitoring the Teach First programme closely and would be evaluating both its progress and impact.