Education: Teachers talk down plan for high fliers

A package of measures to improve teaching recruitment was recommended by a Commons committee. Judith Judd discusses plans to put bright graduates on a fast-track and to raise entry standards.
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The Independent Online
A fast stream for teachers, similar to Civil Service practice, would give high-flying graduates a stronger financial incentive to enter the profession, MPs on the Commons Education and Employment committee said. However, teacher unions attacked the proposal to separate excellent teachers from the rest and said that a few high-fliers would not solve the recruitment crisis.

Overall, the MPs' committee said, pay was not a critical factor in teacher recruitment. According to international comparisons, it argued, teachers' starting salaries in the UK are "average" in relation to those for other jobs.

But members said that teachers sometimes fell behind other professions after a time. To overcome this, fast-track entrants should move more quickly than others towards the Government's proposed "super-teacher" status or even to headship.

The committee's report made clear its fear that the Government's standards crusade might be threatened by teacher shortages. This year there was an 11 per cent drop in the numbers on undergraduate teaching courses. In maths, applications are down by 36 per cent over three years.

The committee recommended minimum A-level scores for entry. Members had been shocked to discover A-level qualifications of students entering teacher training were on average about three grades lower than those for all undergraduate courses.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "To say that pay is unimportant is ridiculous. And attracting a few high-fliers won't meet the Government's targets. We need well-qualified teachers in every classroom."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The committee has accurately put its finger on some of the main causes of teacher shortage, including excessive workload and poor working conditions. But I regret that the committee has been lured into invidious distinctions between so-called `excellent teachers' and the rest."