MUCH hype surrounded the creation of advanced skills teachers - or "superteachers" as they became known. But so far they account for just 0.1 per cent of the workforce.
This year for the first time the Department for Education and Employment published details of the number of such staff in England. In January there were 540, of whom 130 had passed the assessment but were not yet in post. More than 70 per cent of those in post were working in secondaries, with most of the rest in primaries. Advanced skills teachers are slightly thicker on the ground (as a proportion of the local teaching force) in the North-east, the east of England and London, and most scarce in Yorkshire, and Humberside and the west Midlands.
The scheme, launched in September 1998, was designed as an attempt to reward good teachers for staying in the classroom.
The previous device to achieve this same end was the award of excellence points. Asthese were funded from schools' budgets they never really caught on.
The School Teachers Review Body also said in its report this year that the DFEE expects 1,700 ASTs to be in post by September 2000. This is because the grade has been extended beyond specialist schools and education action zones to include all maintained schools.
According to the review body, the Government's long-term aim is that there should be 10,000 advanced skills teachers.
Only time will tell if the new arrangements for teachers' pay - which allow those who cross the threshold to earn up to pound;30,000 plus management and other allowances - will deter staff from wanting to be advanced skills teachers who earn pound;27,000 to pound;43,000. Governing bodies may also dislike the fact that they can have responsibilities outside their own school.
John Howson is a visiting porfessor at Oxford Brookes University. E-mail: Int.email@example.com