Apprentice teacher scheme attacked

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Teenagers with just a handful of GCSE passes are to be recruited to secondary schools to work as teaching assistants.

The Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, wants to recruit more than 4,000 apprentices to work full-time in schools. They would work as teaching assistants with youngsters up to the age of 14. If they liked the job, they would be able to train as teachers.

The move will be part of a plan to bolster apprenticeships for 16- to 19-year-olds – details of which will be outlined in major legislation to be published today.

Last night it provoked uproar from teachers' leaders and opposition MPs who claimed it would weaken teaching as a profession. Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, added: "At a time when the Government is trying to encourage everyone to stay in education until 18, it seems to be sending out the wrong message to have teenagers who have left school at 16 coming in to teach children."

In two areas where the apprenticeship scheme has been piloted the minimum requirement is three GCSE passes.