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Novice 'corps' pushed to front line in weeks

Graduates will be drafted in to do two-year stints in a new swiftly trained London teaching force, reports Julie Henry

HIGH-flying graduates will be fast-tracked into the classroom in a scheme borrowed from the United States aimed at solving London's recruitment crisis.

Teach for London will target students who do not want to commit themselves to a career in teaching. Their accelerated training course, taking six to eight weeks, will be run by London University's Institute of Education. Graduates who pass will get qualified teacher status without a postgraduate certificate in education. They will sign up to teach for two years.

The scheme is based on the Teach for America programme in the US. That "teaching corps" is credited with easing dire staff shortages in deprived schools in the US, which must find 2.4 million new teachers in the next 10 years.

Teach for London will be run by London First, a lobby group for companies in the capital, and Business in the Community.

Rona Kiley, the wife of Bob Kiley, the American brought in to run London's transport system, will play a leading role as London First's manager of business and education.

The Government is backing the scheme following education minister Stephen Timms's fact-finding mission to Washington earlier this year. He told The TES: "Teach for London is a very positive development. It is an opportunity to attract into teaching some very able people who would not otherwise come into the profession."

Employers were recognising that someone who had worked as a teacher for two years had demonstrated some very important skills. In the US 50 per cent of those who joined the scheme stayed on in teaching.

The scheme will be Government-funded initially but sponsorship is being sought from blue-chip companies. In the US, competition to get on the scheme is fierce. Big firms look favourably on CVs that include Teach for America.

About 150 graduates, mostly in shortage subjects such as maths, science and information technology, are expected to be recruited to the capital's classrooms by September 2003.

A spokesman for Teach for London said: "This proposal is aimed at bringing new resources and new talent in to London schools. We are working with the Government, the teacher unions, teacher training agencies and local education authorities to put the scheme in place."

John Bangs, assistant secretary of National Union of Teachers, said: "The scheme may raise questions about the speed of achieving qualified teacher status. Piecemeal schemes will not solve the London shortage - only a decent London allowance and pay and conditions will do that."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "This is an opportunity to recruit high-quality people who can assist with the recruitment crisis in London schools. It is an imaginative way forward but it does not get the Government off the hook in addressing the enormous burden on schools."

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