Teacher-training students could be paid for the first time under plans for a modular post-graduate certificate in education course floated in the Government's Green Paper on the teaching profession.
The paper says that undergraduates could integrate PGCE modules into their first degree. Classroom work - paid at the same rate as teaching assistants - would count towards their teaching qualification.
The paper says: "Students could gain experience and recognition by working as paid associates in a school while taking the relevant modules of the teaching course. Such approaches will increasingly break down the barriers between undergraduate and postgraduate training."
Ministers want students to become "teaching associates". They would bring new academic thinking into schools and get a taste of teaching that may encourage them to take it up full-time.
The Green Paper has prompted fears that higher education is being further by-passed. Professor Mike Newby, chair of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, warned of extra costs and said departments could be "massively destabilised".
He said: "Forces abroad would like to circumvent higher education; we think they are wrong. Where is the evidence that the alternatives would work?" Ministers are clearly still concerned about the quality of new teachers. The Green Paper says the present system does not guarantee they have a "thorough grounding" in basic skills or that individuals merit Qualified Teacher Status.
New teachers will have to pass rigorous literacy, numeracy and information technology tests. Numeracy tests, to be piloted next summer, will be a national requirement from summer 2000; literacy and information technology tests will follow a year later.
External examiners of courses may have to be accredited by the Teacher Training Agency to ensure "QTS standards are sharp and consistent across the country". UCET argues that means over-regulation.
A network of "training schools" with expanded computer facilities will be set up to support the growing number of school-centred initial teacher training courses.
Changes to employment-based training routes - expanded in October to attract more scientists and mathematicians working in other professions - could see funding go directly to the student, bypassing the universities.
In-service training funds currently channelled through HE will increasingly go to school and university partnerships. The move is inspired by fears that grants are being "top-sliced" by universities to cover central costs instead of going entirely on training.
Much in-service training is criticised as "unsystematic and unfocused". The paper proposes a new national framework, including a code of practice which would require providers to reflect latest research and inspection evidence and make a direct link between training and pupil performance.
Teachers would face a new contractual duty to keep their skills up to date, with their achievements recorded nationally on the new register of teachers to be kept by the General Teaching Council.