Train to be a teacher in just three months

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Would-be teachers will be able to train for the job in just a term under a new fast-track route to be launched by the Government.

The high-speed option, designed to tap the talents of mature graduates who may be switching to teaching from other jobs, slashes by up to two-thirds the year-long minimum training period required at present.

Under a second scheme, also unveiled yesterday, mature candidates who have already completed two years of higher education will be able to gain both a degree and a teaching qualification after just one more year's study.

The new fast-track programmes, both aimed at candidates aged 24 or over, under- line the level of government concern over the extent of the recruitment crisis in the teaching profession.

Recruitment into traditional teacher training courses is down 11 per cent this year, raising fears of a serious shortfall, particularly in science and maths.

Ministers are eager to stress that the new schemes, which will see candidates employed by schools as trainee teachers, will be high-quality programmes despite their brevity.

However, teaching unions yesterday sounded alarm bells over the appropriateness of the fast-track approach.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We undoubtedly face a recruitment crisis which will only get worse, as we have to recruit teachers to meet the government's policy of cutting class sizes, but it would be dangerous to abandon quality in the search for quantity."

Under the first fast-track route, the Graduate Teacher Programme, graduates will spend between a term and a year training in the classroom, supported by a local university or teacher-training college.

A Department for Education and Employment Spokeswoman stressed that those taking the minimum time would be rare, and would be likely to have previous experience, perhaps in a further education college.

Candidates taking the second route, the Registered Teacher Programme, will spend between a year and two years training in the classroom, but will also complete a course of academic study at a higher education institution.

School standards minister Estelle Morris, launching a consultation on the two schemes, said the Government wanted to make use of the skills of mature candidates keen to take up teaching who might not be able to go through full-time training before starting work.

Schools and universities will tailor-make the training programmes.Trainees will be employed as unqualified teachers, on salaries starting at pounds 10,689 but ranging as high as pounds 16,902 if governors took relevant experience into account.

The National Union of Teachers warned the fast-tracking schemes would create problems for schools unless the Government provided significant resources to fund mentoring and support for trainees.