Best training is far from the madding campus

A teacher training programme run from Thomas Hardy's former home has become one of the first school-based schemes to achieve an A-rating.

The Borough of Poole programme trains some 25 teachers a year in 18 primaries. It was set up four years ago by Marilyn Leah, formerly a lecturer at King Alfred's College, Winchester, and her husband Andrew, in Max Gate, Hardy's Dorchester house.

Inspectors said the Poole scheme's primary English and maths courses and its trainees' teaching skills were all "very good".

As a result, the scheme has been rated a "category A" provider by the Teacher Training Agency, a first for a primary-based scheme according to Mrs Leah. Last year, there were only three A-grade primary providers: the universities of Cambridge, East Anglia, and Canterbury Christ Church.

"It's just a boost for everybody concerned and an acknowledgement of all the hard work that's gone in," said Mrs Leah.

School-centred teacher training schemes started in 1993, and cater for 5 per cent of trainees. Initially seen as a right-wing attempt to counter "trendy" university courses, many now have close links with higher education The Poole partnership involves the education authority, 18 schools in Dorset, and Kingston university, Surrey.

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