Teachers go back to school in bid to raise classroom standards

Master's degree will be offered free to all teachers under £30m scheme

Up to 5,000 newly qualified teachers are to be offered the chance to study for a new master's degree for the first time in a bid to boost teaching standards in the classroom.

The initiative is the first stage of a scheme under which the new course is eventually expected to be offered free to all new teachers.

Under the first stage, though, priority will be given to teachers in "challenging schools" serving disadvantaged areas – including those on the Government's list of more than 400 failing to get 30 per cent of their pupils to achieve five A* to C grade passes in maths and English at GCSE.

In these schools, heads of department will also be eligible to enrol for the courses, which will include more effective techniques for classroom control.

In addition, all newly qualified teachers in the North-west will be able to enrol from September.

Teacher training experts said they believed the new Master's in Teaching and Learning, devised by the Training and Development Agency (TDA) – which is responsible for teacher recruitment, would be essential in improving teaching skills in the classroom and halting an exodus of young talent who quit after less than three years in the classroom.

They believe it will appeal to ambitious teachers – giving them an extra qualification as they seek to move up the promotion ladder. However, it would also help teachers who are weak in some areas of classroom delivery to improve their performance.

The scheme costs £30m and teachers will be given five years to complete their courses – although most are expected to finish in three. They will study through remote learning Open University-style courses, although schools will be given cash aid to help plan for them to do part of their studying in school time.

They will begin by learning to improve teaching methods, curriculum design, study child development and behaviour management and working in close collaboration with colleagues. Each teacher will be given an older coach cum mentor from a senior member of staff at their school. Later, all recruits will study a speciality – either developing their skills in their own subject area or how to develop their administrative expertise and become heads of department.

John Carr, the head of the Master's in Teaching and Learning at the TDA, said: "We're doing it so it improves their practice and gives them traditional skills and understanding. We'd anticipate it would put them in a position to progress in their career."

The course may also answer criticisms from some newly qualified teachers that not enough time was spent on teacher behaviour control techniques during initial teacher training courses.

Another education innovation, the proposal floated by the Conservative schools spokesman, Michael Gove, to introduce the Swedish "free school system" to the UK, stirred up political opposition yesterday.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, sought to expose divisions within the Conservatives about the plans, under which parents, faith groups and private companies would be encouraged to take over the running of schools with a grant from the state.

Mr Balls said: "If parents understood what the Swedish model meant it would be as unpopular as it is inside the Conservative party itself."

He cited Les Lawrence, from the Local Government Association – a leading Conservative, who told the Commons select committee on education last week that the Stockholm was back-tracking on the plan as it had caused "dissent and division" within the education system.

Mr Gove had said he wanted 3,000 schools to operate under this policy but the Swedes had only managed to establish 900 "free" schools in 20 years. Research into the scheme has shown they have increased segregation between faith and ethnic minorities.