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High-flyers set to parachute into class

Territorial Army style plan for top graduates to combine careers in law and business with teaching. Michael Shaw reports

The teaching world will get its own equivalent of the Territorial Army under plans to let business people and lawyers teach in schools for one day every week.

The scheme would be open to graduates who have completed the Teach First programme, where they spend two years teaching in disadvantaged city schools.

Those who go on to careers in business rather than staying in education would be encouraged to continue working at their old school for one day a week - if their new employer approved.

The scheme is the idea of James Townsend, a 23-year-old Oxford graduate who has been elected Teach First's first "participant president".

Mr Townsend was voted into the job by other Teach First graduates after spending two years on the programme teaching history and music at Morpeth school in Bethnal Green, London.

He said that the one-day-a-week teacher plan had been one of his main manifesto commitments and that he planned to meet the Department for Education and Skills soon to discuss the idea.

"We are looking at the Territorial Army model," he said. "It would be a really exciting way for people to stay in touch with the schools where they worked.

"It would also raise pupils' aspirations - some pupils don't see teachers as real people and this would give them a chance to meet people working in IT, business and the law."

Mr Townsend, who sits on the Teach First advisory board, said he intended to meet some of the major companies backing the programme to find out if they would be willing to let staff take regular time off to return to the classroom. More than 350 graduates will work in 65 London schools next term as part of Teach First, and the scheme is due to spread to Manchester next year and a further four cities in 2007.

The National Union of Teachers said the scheme had been appreciated by teachers in London schools.

However, John Bangs, head of education, said schools would need to consult staff before employing the education equivalent of the TA's "weekend warriors".

"If the teachers support it then that's fine," he said. "But some might not be happy about people being parachuted in, especially when there is a teacher surplus in some subjects."


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