AN on-the-job training scheme seen as key to easing the recruitment crisis in maths and science has been radically redesigned to match would-be teachers with the schools that need them most.
The graduate teacher programme is the only route to the profession where the trainees are paid and is supposed to attract would-be teachers from the world of business. But it has been restricted by a lack of schools willing to take part.
Now, TimePlan - the supply agency hired by the Teacher Training Agency to expand the programme - has come forward with "marriage bureau" plans to appeal to schools.
It hopes to lift the bureaucratic burden and, at the same time, bring universities on board.
The universities will devise courses tailored to each applicant and monitor their progress throughout the year - easing the pressure on schools and helping to persuade heads they will be getting good-quality staff.
More than 400 graduates have already applied and more than 100 schools said they are willing to take on a trainee. TimePlan does not have to hit its target of 600 until Easter 2000.
The programme is aimed at mature entrants who are reluctant or unable to give up a paid job to study for a year. The agency has doubled last year's 500 places and added a further 600 in maths and science - the subjects where the recruitment crisis is most acute and where skills learned in industry mean trainees could take a class from day one.
Finding willing schools has been the biggest problem. Enquiries by potential trainees have outstripped placements by 15 to one. TimePlan has been brought in specifically to handle the 600 maths and science places.
Former head Geoff Brown, TimePlan's contract manager, said the key problem had been the burden on schools. "The workload meant it wasn't practical," he said. "We have taken the emphasis away from the school. It has a role to play, but it has been minimised."
TimePlan has begun contacting schools which have advertised for maths and science teachers in The TES, followed up by visits from TimePlan representatives. That is likely to bear fruit after half-term when recruiting staff from other schools becomes more difficult.
Applicants are told to prepare a lesson plan and a 10-minute presentation for an interview by a school department head. If they pass, they will spend a week observing lessons and learning about the programme. A second week is spent in university where a training programme will be devised.
"Rather than schools having responsibility for trying to train teachers, we have got qualified and agency-accredited initial teacher training providers," Mr Brown said.
Information about the Graduate Teacher Programme is available on 01926 330006.