Gordon Brown has signalled a massive expansion in the number of high-flying graduates to be recruited into tough, under-performing, inner-city schools.
He said yesterday that the number on the Teach First scheme aimed at recruiting the best-qualified graduates to inner-city schools would more than double from 380 to 850 a year by 2013.
The scheme, open to graduates with top-level degrees, aims to recruit them to work for two years in inner-city secondary schools – without having to study for a teaching certificate. Originally, it was intended as a means of getting top-quality graduates to work in teaching for two years before departing for better-paid jobs in the City.
Since its inception, more than half of those recruited have stayed on beyond the two years – with some being fast-tracked into headships. More than 200 are in middle leadership roles in schools. Teach First expects at least 100 to become heads by 2018.
In his lecture, Mr Brown said he wanted to see a much more 'upwardly mobile' society within the next decade.
He promised to launch a 'national crusade' to improve social mobility. This would include a government white paper to be published later this year.
"We need to route out poor teachers and encourage the top graduates to come into teaching," he said.
Social mobility has got worse during the Thatcher era - a trend that was only just beginning to be reversed. Mr Brown claims that children brought up under the Thatcher era were the 'lost generation'.
Other plans to improve social mobility included providing more nursery places for children from the age of two in disadvantaged areas to offset their poor housing conditions.
Supporters of the Teach First scheme say it has helped raise standards and Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, said that half the teachers recruited were "outstanding".
The Schools minister, Andrew Adonis, said of the decision: "The scheme is massively oversubscribed – with more than four students for every place. It is also strongly oversubscribed in terms of the number of schools who want to take Teach First graduates.
"The advantage to graduates is that they're not having to make a long-term decision and they don't have to study for a PGCE."
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