Trainee teachers to be thrown in the deep end

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The Independent Online

Trainee teachers will be made to start teaching in the classroom much earlier than they currently do.

Ministers feel that on-the-job training better equips would-be teachers for the rigours of the classroom. They have adopted the plan following the success of the TeachFirst scheme, which has been recruiting graduates with top degree passes to work in inner-city schools for the past five years.

Most of the TeachFirst recruits, who were signed on for two years in the classroom and did not have an education degree, have stayed on as teachers at the end of the two years, and much of their work has been rated as excellent by inspectors. The plan is for a network of up to 500 "super schools" to be set up over the next four years to train teachers in the classroom. It is intended as the cornerstone of a drive by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to improve the quality of teaching recruits to state schools.

Schools ranked as outstanding by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, will be given responsibility for training new recruits – a switch from training colleges to on-the-job training in schools.

Academics warn that ministers should not ignore the role of teacher training colleges, citing the annual Ofsted report which says that much of the work done in the colleges is excellent. The schools selected to train teachers must also have heads whose leadership skills have been ranked as outstanding. They will be expected to form partnerships with neighbouring schools so that they can offer training to their recruits.

They will be known as teaching schools and have similar responsibilities for the supply of teachers as teaching hospitals have for medical staff. A £100m fund is to be established to consider bids from schools to receive a teaching classification.

The wider shake-up to the education system will also include tougher maths and English tests for all new teaching recruits and curbs on graduates with lower-level degree passes. Only those with 2:2s and above will get finance to join training courses.

Responsibility for approving teaching schools will be handed over to the National College for School Leadership. Its chief executive, Steve Munby, said: "How many there will be we don't exactly know yet but our aim is 500 by the end of this parliament. Obviously, they will be outstanding schools with great teaching and learning.

"The criteria will also include evidence of collaboration and partnership and working with other schools. If you want to be a school that doesn't do this, obviously that's fair enough but you won't become a teaching school.

"They can use the expertise of any other school in the partnership. One that's not ranked as outstanding might be able to offer managerial skills or training for bursars, for instance, and have excellence in particular areas."