Slow take-up of fast-track leads to more opposition

TEACHERS are turning their backs on a fast track to promotion and higher pay, with just 85 applications from around 200,000 eligible staff so far.

The move follows a fall in applications to the second year of fast-track teacher training due to start this September, from 1,574 to 906. There are 101 students currently training in nine universities.

Yet the scheme is expected to cost around pound;13 million up to this April - with most of the money being spent on administration. A consortium led by Interactive Skills has developed the multi-stage assessment and interview process, for around pound;9.2m over three years.

In addition, the Centre for British Teachers, the not-for-profit organisation, will be paid up to 15m over the next three years to manage fast track, which requires its teachers to move schools every two years.

Universities get an extra pound;900 from September for every fast-tracker. Students receive pound;5,000 on top of the pound;6,000 training bursary, a pound;4,000 golden hello in shortage subjects, and a free laptop computer.

Headteacher and teacher unions oppose the scheme and Phil Willis, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, is expected to call for its abolition this weekend.

"Fast track has become a gravy train for everybody other than teachers," he said.

The proposed shortening of the lower pay spine, meaning new teachers could reach the pound;2,000 threshold within five years rather than seven, will also reduce the scheme's financial attractions, say critics.

But the Department for Education and Skills insists it is a long-term investment which will "modernise the teaching profession and raise its status".

Costs are comparable to similar schemes in the private sector, and over 15 years will average pound;3,600 per fast-track teacher per year, it said.

The Government's eventual goal is for 5 per cent of teachers to have experienced fast track. It expects to have 1,000 teachers on board by 20056 - although this is not a target.

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