People who lose their jobs in the recession will be given the chance to become teachers in just six months under a fast-track route to the classroom to be unveiled today.
Teacher-training courses will be cut from a year to six months from September as the Government encourages "high-calibre" people to change profession midway through their career. The scheme will also be open to graduates; many of the 400,000 students who leave university this summer will be looking to the public sector rather than the City or the law.
From next year, some 200 high-flying teachers will be picked out each year for a fast-track promotion under which they could become headteachers within just four years.
The moves are outlined in an 84-page strategy document to extend the Government's public service reforms to be launched today by Gordon Brown. He will try to answer criticism from withing his party that his initiatives to help people through the recession have left Labour with no "forward-looking agenda" on other issues, giving the impression that it has run out of steam after 12 years in power.
While ministers regret that people are losing their jobs, they believe there may be some "silver linings" during the downturn – such as a chance to improve the performance of the teaching profession.
Jim Knight, the Schools minister, said: "There are thousands of highly talented individuals in this country who are considering their next move, who want to do something challenging, rewarding, that is highly respected and where good people have great prospects. My message to them is to see what they can offer teaching and what teaching can offer them.
"By cutting the initial teacher-training course to six months for the most able candidates, we will make teaching a more attractive choice for experienced people who want to get into the classroom quickly but need high quality initial teacher training." Although no extra cash will be offered, some of the new recruits may also qualify for "golden hellos" of £10,000 a year in poor areas, which were announced in January.
Applications to enter teaching have risen by 10 per cent this year and the number applying to become science teachers – where there are shortages for those subjects – is 30 per cent higher than a year ago.
The document released today, Working Together, also includes plans to give more powers to NHS nurses, such as the right to discharge patients, run primary care services without GPs and report directly to hospital boards without going through managers. A commission will draw up proposals to expand the role of nurses. Another reform is to expand use of the internet to give people more information about services and allow them to comment about their performance. They will be able to give their views on GPs' services in this way for the first time.
In a foreword to the document, Mr Brown will say the 1997 balance between the private and public sectors is now "inadequate". "While financial markets need more supervision, Government must also transfer more power to parents, pupils and patients," he will say.
He will concede that the Government has been "much too slow" to make use of the power of information to improve services. "People take it for granted that they will access other people's reviews or ratings before buying something on eBay or Amazon, and yet we do not yet have systematic access to other people's experiences when choosing a GP practice or nursery. We have clearly got the balance wrong when online businesses have higher standards of transparency than the public services we pay for and support."
The Prime Minister will accept that the role of Government must change, but will argue that the state still has "an inescapable responsibility to promote fair chances and fair rules for all".