Ready for life in fast lane

Teachers on the fast track scheme have been marked as future leaders. Karen Thornton talks to some as they start in schools

They are billed as the next generation of movers and shakers. Their task is to challenge the traditional culture in schools and bring a breath of fresh air into the staffroom.

They have been told to get stuck in and cause a bit of trouble. In return they will be paid more and promoted rapidly. But for the moment the profession's new high-flyers are firmly focused on becoming good teachers.

Around 90 newly-qualified teachers and 20 experienced colleagues are this week taking up new "fast track" posts in 76 schools across England. Another 110 students will be starting specialised fast-track teacher-training this month.

The scheme accelerates people to the threshold. Those who join it at trainee stage could reach it after as little as four years in school.

The Department for Education and Skills set up the scheme to "inspire, attract, retain and reward the most dedicated, enthusiastic and able people", and support their rapid progression to management or advanced skills posts.

But the fast-trackers are playing down their ambitions, making it clear that their feet are planted firmly on the ground.

"My goal is simply to be as effective a practitioner as I can. I've no real aspirations to management at the minute, but I do see it as a possible progression," said Will Smith, 22, a history teacher at Wellington school in Altrincham, Greater Manchester. "At this stage, I wouldn't say there's a great deal of difference (between fast track and other NQTs): the apprehension about starting a new job is exactly the same."

Mike Fergus, 37, took his first science classes at Aireville school in Skipton, north Yorkshire, this week. The former bank manager and food and agriculture consultant wanted more job satisfaction.

He does not feel pressured by the weight of government expectation on fast-trackers, nor does he expect his status to cause problems in the staffroom.

Mr Fergus and his fellow high-flyers will start a point higher on the salary scale than ordinary NQTs, get an extra recruitment and retention allowance of pound;1,914, and extra mentor support and training. However, they also have no contractual restrictions on the hours they work. "You may get one or two comments from time to time, but hopefully people will judge me on who I am," he said.

"We all see ourselves as trying to be good teachers first, and we will work out the management side later. You come in with fresh ideas, but I don't know any fast-trackers who are wild ambitious types who are going to sweep the place clean."

Helen Gardiner, 24, a languages NQT at Park View community school, in Chester-le-Street, Durham, has already taken on responsibility for A-level Spanish.

She recommends the training, saying she was offered opportunities (such as teaching citizenship in the Czech republic) that have broadened her thinking and horizons. She sees fast track as a way of bringing new ideas into schools and sharing them.

But she added: "I'm an NQT, my main priority this year is teaching and being a really good teacher. We are only NQTs - they can't expect too much of us in our first year."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you