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Tories back 'Teach First' scheme

22 October 09 11:48 GMT

The Conservatives say they would divert funding to expand a scheme that sees bright graduates training on the job as teachers before working in industry.

They say the Teach First scheme could then operate throughout England and in primary schools.

This and similar programmes would be tapped for expertise to turn failing schools in to Academies.

The government said it was already doubling programmes to fast-track the best graduates into teaching.

Teach First is a charity that trains new graduates to teach in "challenged" secondary schools.

It recruits, trains, places and supports more than 500 people each year in the toughest schools in London, the North West, Yorkshire and the East and West Midlands.

Management 'incubator'

The Tories say they would double the scheme, using £5m from the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

They are also backing two other programmes.

Teaching Leaders develops school middle managers such as heads of departments, and Future Leaders aims to develop potential leaders - not necessarily from within education - to work in difficult schools.

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said the Tories would set up an "incubator" for graduates of the three programmes to work with chains of Academies.

They would form new management teams to take over schools that Ofsted judged to be failing, and help parents' groups start new schools.

Mr Gove said: "Our support for these three brilliant programmes will train many more great teachers, especially in schools that have problems.

"It is also hugely encouraging that alumni of these three groups are eager to start new schools."

A spokeswoman for Teach First said: "Provided we can maintain the quality of our intake, Teach First is keen to expand wherever there is need and demand for its teachers; clearly educational disadvantage is a national problem."

In the last three years the current government had supported the scheme's growth and Teach First was pleased the Tories were also committed to broadening its impact across England.

'No longer demoralised'

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said: "While it's good to see the Tories finally realising that great teachers are the key to children's success at school, Michael Gove's warm words are undermined by his plan to cut spending on schools from next year."

He added: "Teaching has been transformed from a demoralised profession in 1997 to the number one choice for graduates today.

"But we want to go even further, which is why we are already doubling successful programmes like Teach First to fast-track the best graduates into teaching."

The leader of one of the main classroom unions, Chris Keates of the NASUWT, said: "It is disappointing that the Conservatives plan to hijack schemes designed by this government to nurture teachers and leadership in schools in a bid to advance the Conservative Party vision of elitism in every aspect of education."

But one of the complaints from the Conservatives is that the standard of recruits into the teaching profession is too low.

They cited official statistics showing that one in five trainee teachers had to re-sit the mandatory literacy test and one in four the numeracy test.

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