ONLY 20 experienced teachers will be joining the Government's flagship scheme for accelerating the best professionals into leadership posts this September.
And an analysis of their destinations shows that schools in the most challenging circumstances will largely miss out on the benefits of their services, despite Education Secretary Estelle Morris's belief that they need the best teachers.
Most of the new fast-track posts (60 per cent) have been created in schools with above-average GCSE results. Of the 54 secondaries involved, two are selective grammars. Only three qualify as "challenging", with less than a quarter of pupils getting five Cs or better at GCSE last year.
The Department for Education and Skills says 190 schools have applied for fast-track posts. So far 176 have been approved for a total of 256 posts.
However, only 110 fast-track teachers are taking up posts this September, in 76 schools.
Russell Clarke, deputy general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "The real issues in education are to do with schools having difficulties: those are the ones we have to crack if we are going to make a difference to the way young people are educated.
"I can't blame people for wanting to work in attractive schools. But one would have hoped for a more equitable distribution of such posts."
John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "I wish the tiny number of fast-trackers the best of luck in their new careers. When the DFES used an advertisement of a lonely teacher walking up an escalator (to promote the scheme), we didn't realise just how lonely they would be. Fast track is a fundamental waste of money."
Ministers set up fast track to attract high-flying graduates into the profession and ensure the rapid promotion of the most able pre-threshold teachers to management or advanced-skills posts.
Trainees get an extra pound;5,000 bursary and a laptop, while fast-track teachers get extra professional development, pay and retention incentives worth an extra pound;3,303 a year, all funded by the DFES. In return, they have to move schools every two years and give up limits on their working hours.
The Government's aim is for 5 per cent of all teachers (around 21,000 in England) to pass through fast track at some stage of their careers. But when the scheme starts its second year in September, there will be only 20 experienced and 90 newly-qualified teachers in post, and 110 new trainees.
Critics say the low numbers involved make it hard to justify the huge costs of the scheme, which already exceed pound;13 million. The company Centre for British Teachers, responsible for managing school placements, will receive between pound;6m and pound;15m over three years, while pound;9.2m went on the recruitment and selection process developed by Interactive Skills.
In Wales, a similar scheme has been put on hold because of other more pressing priorities.
A DFES spokeswoman said: "We are at an early stage in our recruitment of serving teachers (to fast track) and there will be a greater number recruited next year." She added that improving leadership was "especially important" at challenging schools.