Not-so-old heads on young shoulders

The fast-track teaching programme is helping the best to move up, writes Karen Higginbottom

Ever considered teaching as a career? Frightened off by the prospect of poor wages and sluggish career progression? Liz Robinson is a graduate who dispels those misconceptions. She is the 30-year-old head teacher at Surrey Square Junior School in Southwark, one of the most deprived boroughs in London. One of the reasons for Liz's rapid ascent through the teaching ranks is due to her participation in the Government's fast-track teaching programme, introduced in 2002 to accelerate the career development of graduates in teaching.

Liz was a newly qualified teacher when she applied for the fast-track scheme. During this time, she worked her way up to the post of deputy head at Charles Dickens School in London in only three years. Her appointment as head teacher last January was greeted with much media fanfare. "It was a challenge because the media made a big song and dance about my appointment, so it was a lot to live up to. For the first few months, I felt conscious of my age but as soon as people get to know you within the school community that goes."

Liz has made an impact on the school, with Ofsted recently granting it an "outstanding" for leadership. One of the benefits of the fast-track programme was its training in leadership skills and its useful contacts in education, says Liz. "We had visiting lecturers such as David Bell and John West-Burnham," she adds. "I've even met Tony Blair through fast-track."

The job is demanding: working from 7.30am to 6:30pm, Liz will sort out cover, conduct a morning briefing, observe lessons and look at the performance management of all staff. Despite her responsibilities, she remains as enthusiastic as ever about teaching. "Working with children and seeing them progress is fantastic," she says. Liz earns a competitive salary of more than £55,000 a year and feels privileged to have this degree of responsibility at such a young age.

For Ben England, the 30-year-old head of music at the Grange School in Bristol, teaching offers so much more job satisfaction than his experience in a number of different careers. "I became disillusioned with staring at a computer screen all day, says Ben. "My last job as a web designer compared very unfavourably with my wife's career as a doctor. When I looked at my day-to-day existence, I felt like my life was disappearing and I wanted to work with people." Ben left behind a comfortable salary when he embarked on the fast-track programme in September 2003, which at that time included a post-graduate certificate of education (PGCE).

He credits the fast-track programme with giving him the skills to push through initiatives, such as the creation of a rock orchestra. "To come in as head of music in your first post is quite scary," says Ben. "I came to a school where music was on the wane and and had no real road map. Having a fast-track mentor who you can talk things through was really helpful, so I was able to do things."

He has occasionally been the recipient of comments about his age but he claims they are mostly light-hearted remarks. "I haven't had anyone call me a 'young whippersnapper'," he says. "I've needed to be very tactful and I'm very conscious of the fact that there are people who have been at the school for a decade doing things a certain way."

Too bright for teaching? That was the advice given to Claire Oaten, who is now a 30-year-old deputy head at Carleton Green Community Primary School in Lancashire. After achieving five A-levels, her teachers told her she was too "academic" to pursue a career in teaching. "They discouraged me from doing primary school teaching," she says.

She went on to Lancaster University to do a PhD in economics but a bout of glandular fever forced her to drop out of the course. During this time, she re-evaluated what she wanted to do with her life and decided to become a primary school teacher. She applied to do a PGCE at St Martin's School in Lancaster, where she came top of her year in the teaching practice course. She entered the fast-track programme in January 2004. "I went on a national conference where I could hear speakers on a range of areas in education and could network with fast-trackers," she says.

She became deputy head at her current school at the age of 29. "The challenging aspect of the post is that you're very aware of working with the head teacher as management, but I'm still teaching four days a week," she says.

Claire hasn't had any derogatory comments from staff about her age. "I'm one of the youngest members of staff in school," she says. "Everybody has been very positive." She recently passed her national qualification for headship and is looking for a head teacher role. "I don't want to take the first one that is available," she says. "I want a school that is right for me."

The Fast-Track Teaching programme is aimed at newly qualified teachers.

There is no age limit. For further information, visit www.fasttrackteaching.co.uk

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick