Fast-track teachers barred from working in Scotland

11th December 2009 at 00:00
The General Teaching Council for Scotland has refused to register participants in a controversial English programme

The General Teaching Council for Scotland has refused to register participants in a controversial English programme, which parachutes top graduates into difficult schools after only six weeks of training.

Its stance has angered staff at Teach First, many of whose trainees quickly reach leadership positions in England but face being barred from any teaching job in Scotland.

The GTCS said it had first informed Teach First last year that its alumni could not be registered in Scotland. A spokesman said the issue was discussed at a full council meeting, and the decision was "not taken lightly". He explained: "The Teach First programme, based on the Teach for America programme in the USA, does not equate to a Scottish teaching qualification; indeed, it does not provide a teaching qualification for those completing the course.

"The GTC Scotland has a duty to ensure that those achieving full registration in Scotland are properly qualified to teach in our classrooms. We do not think that the Teach First course is sufficiently rigorous and equivalent to the level of initial teacher education teachers registering in Scotland require."

Corporate-sponsored charity Teach First recruited 485 people for its 2009 programme, which lasts two years and has an emphasis on leadership training. Participants learn "on the job" in secondary schools - although a trial project is taking Teach First participants into primaries - after only six weeks' training in the summer at Canterbury Christ Church University (relocating to Warwick University next year).

A spokeswoman said: "We are concerned that GTC Scotland continues to refuse our teachers the right to teach in Scotland, in spite of the near- universal recognition of the success of Teach First's leadership development in training inspirational and effective teachers."

She explained that Teach First had recently been Masters-accredited, thanks to links with established teacher-training providers. Half the alumni of the programme were still in teaching, with nearly 30 per cent in leadership positions.

She pointed to support from England's main teaching unions, although National Union of Teachers' general secretary Christine Blower recently said it was "touch and go" whether Teach First was right for secondary schools and that it was not suitable for primary pupils' complex needs.

"It is a shame that those of our teachers who wish to practise in Scotland are being denied the opportunity to do so, as the evidence suggests they are ideally placed to make a valuable contribution," the spokeswoman said. "We are keen to work with GTCS to resolve this situation as soon as possible."

There has been praise from many quarters, including Ofsted and all political parties, while many English headteachers like the enthusiasm of Teach First trainees, who often take difficult-to-fill positions.

The speed of immersion in education has attracted criticism, as has the elite nature of the course; our sister paper reported this year that Teach First was the biggest recruiter from Oxford and Cambridge universities. Some question the dedication shown, since only 60 per cent of trainees stay in classrooms after their contracted two years.

Teach First will be interested in the findings of the Donaldson review of initial teacher education, announced by former Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop. She promised it would be "open and inclusive and none of the conclusions are pre-judged".

Read The TES's take on Teach First: www.tes.co.ukarticle.aspx?storycode=6021552.

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