Editor's comment

4th September 2009 at 01:00

As the fascinating debate continues in our pages over whether English schools are now outperforming Scotland's (p20), one thing is clear - they do things differently there. Take Teach First, the programme that parachutes remarkable graduates into tough inner-city schools, armed with a little bit of teaching practice and a lot of chutzpah. It would be derided in Scotland, but has won near-universal acclaim in England for its role in introducing talent to need (p8).

There is some dissent, inevitably so since Teach First carries with it an implicit suggestion that the old system has been found wanting. The short time graduates sign up for - two years - riles. It is easy to question the motives of high-fliers who flit out of schools as soon as they have won their compassionate wings (although 60 per cent now choose to stay). It is easy to brand them elitist. Too easy.

Much of this unease has nothing to do with Teach First per se, but reflects a fear that teacher training is becoming less predictable. There is no longer one path into the profession, but several. There is no longer an assumption that people have to commit to teaching for life to make a contribution. There is no longer such a thing as a typical teacher, but many types, some of whom have forsworn lucrative positions to teach.

When teaching is the destination of choice for the brightest and the best, it can no longer be regarded as a safe, second-order career. The traditional system is surely strengthened by, and might possibly learn from, an alternative way of doing things. As the Teach First chief executive rightly observed, children are not all taught in the same way, so why should teachers be trained in the same way?

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