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Call for inquiry into 'failed' fast-track

A Commons inquiry into the fast-track teacher training scheme has been called for by Phil Willis, the Lib-Dem education spokesman. He wants the Commons' public accounts committee to investigate whether it is providing value for money.

Over the past year, 226 high-flying graduates have been recruited to fast-track. But the cost of the scheme has topped pound;8 million - working out at more than pound;35,000 per recruit.

Mr Willis said: "The cost benefit of fast-track does not bear open scrutiny when you look at the resources put in for the outcomes.

"This year we have got schools laying off teachers and sacking classroom assistants for the sake of a few thousand pounds and here are millions of pounds being poured down the plughole for the Government's pet project.

"Ministers refuse to accept it has been an interesting experiment but one that has dramatically failed."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, is another fast-track critic. He said: "It's the wrong scheme. It's badly designed, too expensive and should be abolished. Schools have better ways of fast-tracking good staff."

Graduates with good A-levels, a combined UCAS point score of at least 22, and a 2.1 or above degree, can apply for fast-track. It offers a pound;5,000 training bursary and a free laptop. Entrants complete a tough residential selection process before acceptance and, once qualified, start a point higher on the pay scale. The scheme is also open to already qualified teachers in their first five years of teaching, who are seeking a fast-track route into management.

In return for giving up limits on their working hours, they get additional training opportunities designed to speed them towards management positions.

But new figures reveal that only 28 experienced teachers have taken up posts this year. Qualified teachers were expected to make up the bulk of fast-track scheme when it was launched three years ago.

The Department for Education is hoping that nearly 400 will make it on to courses - last year just over 100 did.

A DfES spokeswoman said: "There are opportunities nationwide, with more than 280 schools keen to recruit fast-track teachers.

"It is now firmly established as part of the educational landscape, and has a strong presence in the highly competitive market for top graduates."

Viv Ellis, page 36

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