Fast track for teachers

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The Independent Online
A NEW fast-track scheme for high-flying teachers, designed to attract ambitious graduates to the profession with the promise of faster promotion and higher pay than the average teacher, is to be launched by the Prime Minister this week.

Tony Blair will announce the creation of a "fast stream" into teaching for 1,000 high-calibre graduates a year, effectively creating a "two- tier" structure in schools.

The initiative has been condemned by teaching unions, who say it will demoralise existing teaching staff and do little to improve conditions or raise standards in schools.

"It's fiddling at the edges," said a spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers. "It's insulting to teachers in the profession and it is giving privileged treatment to one group."

The scheme, based on similar systems in industry and the civil service, is aimed at making teaching a more desirable option for highly motivated young graduates who, the Government fears, are choosing to go into the city, industry and the media instead of teaching because salaries and the chances of advancement are regarded as poor.

Under the programme, to be piloted in September 1999, teachers will be able to take work placements in business and different types of schools and gain pay rises faster than their colleagues.

Today the average starting salary for a teacher is pounds 15,000 rising to pounds 22,500 in seven years. The fast-stream candidates will be able to earn pounds 22,500 within five years with the prospect of becoming a head or deputy head "quite quickly". Some may go on to become the new category of "super teachers", earning up to pounds 40,000 a year.

Graduates with upper-second or first-class degrees are expected to qualify for the programme. But they will also be expected to have good communication skills and "an ability to inspire young people". Teachers already in the profession will also be able to apply.

The Government will also announce a controversial package of reforms of how teachers are paid. Teaching unions will be angry if it introduces performance-related pay based on exam results. They believe this will lead to resentment in the profession and discriminate against inner-city schools where many children do not speak English as a first language.