A scheme to spot talented young teachers and accelerate them to leadership posts is to be scrapped, after it emerged that it had cost around pound;43,000 per participant.
The Government's Fast Track scheme has cost more than pound;89 million since its launch in 2001 and has resulted in only 176 people being recruited to senior positions, including six to a headship.
The 1,900 teachers still on the scheme will be able to continue as normal until September 2009. After that, a down-scaled accelerated leadership programme will resume under a different name.
The National College of School Leadership, which oversees the scheme, refused to say whether budget cuts had forced the move.
John Howson, a recruitment expert and longstanding critic of the scheme, said it was unlikely the Government could continue to justify the expenses, given the returns.
He added: "This is the long, lingering death of a scheme that attempted to impose a centralised, civil service model on a market-driven school recruitment system. It is already a failed brand and it is a wise move to scrap it."
Fast Track has made rocky progress since launching as a recruitment drive for trainee teachers.
First the scheme failed to attract sufficient numbers, with only 110 of an anticipated 300 applying in the first year. Then there was controversy over the expensive perks they were offered, including free laptops, printers, cameras, a pound;5,000-a-year tax-free bursary and recruitment and retention points worth pound;2,000 after their first year in teaching.
In 2005, when critics expressed doubts about newly qualified teachers being groomed for leadership, the whole scheme was re-styled as a leadership programme for qualified teachers and many perks were axed.
Members of the scheme alerted The TES to their concerns. Alex Brassey, a Fast Track secondary teacher, had found the whole experience "banal and pointless", he said, adding: "The scheme has been dead on its feet for some time."
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "What these people want is not courses, but responsibilities. It's up to headteachers to talent spot and encourage teachers to go for promotion."
The scheme worked for some. Liz Robinson, who was 29 when she became the first Fast Track head, said she "absolutely adored" the scheme.