Despite opposition, the Government has pressed on with its plans for advanced skills teachers. Nicolas Barnard reports.
The country's first "superteachers" will be in the classroom by September - paid for by the Government and vetted by private consultants.
Up to 100 advanced skills teachers are to be appointed in specialist schools and education action zones following a concerted but unpublicised push by the Department for Education and Employment.
The DFEE invited all technology and other specialist colleges to bid for the new posts, offering to pay up to Pounds 5,000 a year for two years in extra salary, the same in supply cover and a one-off Pounds 5,000 towards setting-up costs.
Around 100 of the 190 specialist schools responded. The successful ones must now submit applications by individual teachers with a reference from their heads.
Applicants will be interviewed and observed in the classroom by Westminster Education Consultants, the London-based school inspection firm, under contract to the DFEE. Their heads will also be interviewed. Vetting will be done against strict criteria laid down by the department.
Teachers will have to prove they excel in: getting results; subject knowledge; lesson and syllabus planning; motivating pupils and maintaining discipline; and supporting and advising colleagues.
If all applications were successful, it would cost the Government up to Pounds 2.5 million over two years, though ministers hope the costs will be taken on by local government as the programme is rolled out to all schools.
The tight timescale - the invitation to schools in early June allowed just two weeks for bids - shows ministers' determination to get the scheme started in the face of opposition from teachers.
The aim is to enhance the status of teaching, encourage gifted staff to stay in the classroom and spread good practice. For a salary of up to Pounds 40,000, ASTs will be expected to work with teachers in other schools - hence the grant for supply cover.
Civil servants are also talking to the 25 new education action zones. Ministers last month trumpeted ASTs as a feature of most zones, but analysis of bids suggests a more lukewarm response.
Research by Chichester Institute of Higher Education has found nearly two-thirds of teachers opposed to ASTs as divisive and demoralising. They would do nothing to boost recruitment, they said. Opposition was greatest among heads.
Unions are opposed despite attempts by the Government to involve them. Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of second-largest classroom union, the NASUWT, said teachers were "profoundly unhappy" about ASTs.