Bill Gates bankrolls 'reverse Teach First' as scheme crosses pond

26th August 2011 at 01:00
Billionaire funds initiative to develop `missing link' in US teacher training

The world's second-richest man, software billionaire Bill Gates, is bankrolling the introduction of an English educational programme across the United States.

Teaching Leaders, a scheme to increase the effectiveness of department heads and other "middle leaders" in England's secondary schools, has caught the eye of education reformers in America.

The principle behind the project - developing the middle "missing link" in teacher training - was given the blessing of President Obama's education team in December 2009.

This year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stepped up to finance a pilot that should make the concept a reality in 12 US regions over the next five years.

The American programme, dubbed Leading Educators, is also being supported by Ark, the hedge fund-backed charity that sponsors academies in England, and US charity the New Schools Venture Fund.

The move will be seen as a "reverse Teach First", following England's adoption of the Teach for America scheme, which brings "the brightest graduates" to the classroom in a fast-track training programme.

Sharath Jeevan, director of Teaching Leaders in England, played a leading role in securing support for the American expansion and believes it will also benefit teachers on this side of the Atlantic.

"We are very excited about having the opportunity for our programmes and our middle leaders to exchange ideas. We could have a head of maths in London peer-mentoring with the head of a maths faculty in the US," he said.

Jonas Chartock, the American scheme's new chief executive, said: "The plan is to get into the largest number of high-need schools possible."

Two expansion schemes in a southern state and a city in the Midwest are already being developed and the plan is for Leading Educators to gain a presence in all the US's big urban areas, including California, New York and New Jersey.

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