Teach First 'must grow' to fill demand

18th July 2008 at 01:00
Prince Charles gives backing to scheme that encourages high-flyers to join challenging secondaries
Prince Charles gives backing to scheme that encourages high-flyers to join challenging secondaries

The teach first scheme for graduate high-flyers is emerging as a true national institution, the junior schools minister has claimed.

Lord Adonis said the supply of Teach First teachers must be allowed to expand to meet the growing demands of schools.

He spoke as the project received the backing of the Prince Charles.

The minister said that in London alone last year secondaries made applications to fill 1,000 vacancies under the scheme, but only 120 teachers were available to fill them.

Over the next five years, the Government hopes the scheme will expand from 370 to 850 places, with up to 12 per cent of Oxbridge graduates choosing it as an option.

Lord Adonis insisted that reducing the exclusivity of the scheme, which now operates in London, the West Midlands and the North West, would not compromise the quality of graduates recruited.

The programme has been praised by Ofsted, although concerns have been raised about the ability of young teachers to control challenging classes after just six weeks of intensive training. The scheme has also been criticised for being hailed as the answer to recruitment problems in difficult schools - as half of recruits leave after two years.

The Prince of Wales visited a former sink school in east London to celebrate becoming patron of Teach First this week. He met Bethnal Green Technology College's nine Teach First teachers, some of whom are celebrating the end of their first year in the profession.

One, Marie Hamer, played a key role in the school's battle out of special measures, co-ordinating activities to allow pupils to have their voices heard in the school.

In an imaginative presentation to the Prince, pupils explained how the school turned itself around - and compared Ms Hamer to a "fairy" who had "banished the darkness" in the school.

Mark Keary, the headteacher, was compared to a "demon king" who had given pupils power and responsibility and had convinced the "the prince of Ofsted" to take them out of special measures.

Prince Charles, who seemed slightly baffled by the descriptions, praised Britain's ability to borrow ideas in education from the United States. Teach First is the English version of the Teach for America programme.

"It's intriguing to find how many interesting and innovative ideas have has their origin in the USA," he said. "I would like to think some of our interesting and innovative ideas go the other way.

"This cross-fertilisation across the pond is enormously advantageous."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families is also embracing the American concept of "studio schools" which provide practical learning for pupils excluded from the mainstream.

Teach First is the latest high profile education initiative to be linked to the Prince of Wales. His Prince's Teaching Institute, designed to help teachers improve their subject knowledge, ran its annual summer schools for the seventh consecutive year in June.

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