Teach First folly

29th February 2008 at 00:00
We write as a group of inner-city professionals concerned about Gordon Brown's plans to extend the Teach First programme (TES, February 15).

With its aim to attract "top graduates who would not normally enter teaching", we feel that the ideas and values underpinning the scheme tread close to being elitist.

Teach First claims to turn out excellent teachers who will help pupils overcome deprivation. But it is difficult to see how young graduates with a six-week summer course are supposed to deliver excellence. The unstated assumption is that "top graduates" are somehow better placed to teach effectively than those of us with a year's training and experience behind us.

Of course, a decent degree from a good university is an indication that an individual is motivated and bright. But given that pupils from just 100 elite schools still dominate a third of places at Oxford and Cambridge, it is just as often an indication of social background.

Teach First-ers sign up for just two years in the profession. During their time in schools they are pushed to put themselves forward for senior management roles. This means that teachers with decades' worth of service frequently find themselves being told what to do by someone in their mid-20s with around three years' experience, earning up to pound;50,000. The implications for morale are obvious.

Being excellent, these people are not expected to stick around for long. Their classes cannot, therefore, expect continuity. Anyone with a genuine interest in teaching should have enough regard for the expertise involved to dedicate a year of their life to a PGCE course (as many good graduates do).

Emily Thomas, Crystal Cardnell, Simon O'Leary, Vaqas Qureshi, Paige Richardson, Marc Tench, Charlie Williams, London teachers.

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