Sector seeks to lure 'ambitious' graduates

28th February 2014 at 00:00
Colleges invited to trial Teach First-style recruitment scheme

From Austria to Australia, the Teach For All model has revolutionised teacher recruitment in schools. Each year, thousands of outstanding young graduates are plucked from top universities, given six weeks of training and placed in the most challenging classrooms.

The approach - pioneered by Teach For America - is now set to move into the further education sector for the first time, after pound;3.6 million was made available in the UK to create a scheme that has been dubbed Teach Further, targeting colleges and training providers in England and Wales.

Teach First is not officially involved. Funding is instead being offered by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), the body created by the government last year to improve standards and professionalism in the sector.

The foundation is seeking bids from consortia of FE providers to run one of three pilot "premium" teacher training programmes. These regional two- year schemes are scheduled to begin in September and will each train 15 "high calibre and ambitious graduates" for teaching jobs in the FE sector. The eventual hope is that the programme will be rolled out across the country.

As with Teach For All programmes, graduates who join the scheme will be expected to teach for at least two years before deciding whether to remain in the profession. During the pilot, their salaries will be covered by the ETF rather than individual colleges or training providers.

Tenders are being invited for schemes aimed at shortage subjects such as English, maths, engineering and science, as well as learners with special educational needs.

The project came about after more than a year of lobbying for a Teach Further-style programme by the Institute for Learning (IfL), the professional body for FE lecturers in the UK.

However, IfL chief executive Toni Fazaeli said that the scheme should be targeted at luring industry and professional experts to the classroom rather than having a "myopic" focus on high-flying university graduates. As a result, she was concerned that the ETF's model would not be "sufficiently sustainable to the longer term".

"Such a scheme would have to be adapted for FE," she said. "The average age of entry to teaching in FE is around 38, versus around 28 for new school teachers, and many of those who are experts in the vocational or subject area do not necessarily have a degree, so the scheme should not be limited to top graduates from top universities.

"So narrow a focus would risk overlooking what some of the most talented and successful industry and professional experts could contribute by becoming FE teachers, to help upskill our nation."

However, the ETF's plans were welcomed by the University and College Union. "It is good to see the status of further education teaching being raised," said the organisation's general secretary Sally Hunt.

"We would like to see similar support for teachers already in the sector to work towards higher qualifications and the availability of good quality CPD [continuing professional development]. This move is particularly welcome considering that last year's deregulation bill removed the requirement for FE teachers to gain a qualification."

A Teach First spokesman confirmed that this would be the first time a similar scheme had been adapted for the FE sector but declined to comment on the specific proposals.

Last year, liberal thinktank CentreForum also called for the creation of a Teach First-style approach for the FE sector, labelling it Train Too.

The organisation proposed that industry experts should spend one day a week on secondment teaching in colleges or with training providers. It argued that this would improve relationships between colleges and employers by promoting the concept of "dual professionalism".

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