Ministers to control elite new teachers

14th January 2000 at 00:00
The Government plans to choose which schools will employ fast-track

staff, reports Warwick Mansell

THE GOVERNMENT is to choose which schools get its elite new teachersin a controversial move condemned by academics and unions.

The Department for Education and Employment this week unveiled details of its fast-track career path which aims to create an elite cadre of the brightest recruits every year.

Under the plans, to come into effect from next autumn, a contractor appointed by the department will vet the selection of up to 1,000 teachers a year, who will qualify for pound;5,000 "golden hellos" and higher salaries in return for extra duties.

Schools will bid for a teacher to the DFEE which is also managing the scheme.

Recruitment analyst John Howson said the scheme represented the biggest shake-up in the recruitment market since the late 1980s, with the department replacing schools as the key player.

He said: "We have possibly the most open labour market in the world, in that a school advertises a vacancy and anyone, anywhere in the country, can apply for it.

"What will replace it will be a system where the Government decides who gets what it sees as the cream of the crop every year. If schools are being denied control over recruiting what they see as the best, that more or less destroys the ideal of local management."

Schools' recruitment freedoms will be further curtailed because the scheme sipulates that they have to recruit "locally" for fast-track teachers. Currently, a school theoretically can trawl the whole country for the best teachers.

Unions, who have condemned the scheme as misguided in its attempt to identify star teachers before they have entered the classroom, said recruitment should be left to schools.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the move contradicted the Government's commitment to local management, in which budgetary decisions are devolved to heads and governors.

He said: "It is an extraordinary situation where a government avows to delegate everything to schools and then decides to cherry-pick the elements of the teaching profession it wishes to deploy."

Bob Carstairs, assistant general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "Heads are the ones who should be determining teacher recruitment and promotion, not a scheme that seems to have been designed as a political sop to parents who are worried about the lack of new teachers."

There is still some uncertainty about how good teachers are to be identified, potentially, before they set foot in a classroom.

The proposals say fast-track applicants are likely to have to undergo a "residential assessment process" in addition to sitting an exam. The document adds, however: "There is no question of recruiting to a single, rigid idea of what makes an excellent teacher."

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