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Young stars face delay of one year

THE fast-track for outstanding new teachers is turning into the slow-track, put back a year as the latest victim of the Government's High Court defeat.

The first teachers are now not expected to start on the accelerated promotion programme until April 2002. All references to the programme have been expunged from teachers' contracts in amendments rushed through Parliament over the summer.

Applicants for the title of advanced skills teachers are also affected, although that scheme should resume early next year.

Both have been put on hold through fears they could fall foul of the same legal problems that hit the Government's performance pay reforms, ruled unlawful by Mr Justice Jackson in July following a challenge by the National Union of Teachers.

Like the threshold standards, the criteria for fast-track and AST posts are not listed in teachers' contracts. The Government has been forced formally to consult its pay advisers, the School Teachers' Review Body, on all three sets of standards.

The fast-track scheme, intended for the 5 per cent most talented entrants, has suffered the greatest delay.

It was du to start this month, with new and serving teachers able to apply now to take up posts next spring and undergraduates applying for places on teachertraining courses. Eventually up to 1,000 people are expected on the fast track.

Undergraduates are unaffected, students are not covered by teachers' contracts and will have to meet different criteria. But serving teachers must now wait until September 2001 before applying and April 2002 before taking their first post.

Successful candidates will get a pound;5,000 golden hello, receive extra training and support and move up the pay scale twice as fast as other teachers. They will work in a series of challenging placements - and the scheme could continue on to headship level.

It means further embarrassment for the Government. Currently 197,000 teachers have applications for the pound;2,000-a-year threshold pay rise on hold while the review body deliberates.

Education Secretary David Blunkett has asked the review body to consult quickly on standards for advanced skills teachers. Around 50 new applicants are thought to be affected, but the process should resume by Easter.

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