SNP to put tender out for controversial ‘Teach First’ scheme

'Fast-track' proposals will see graduates moving into teaching posts while simultaneously training. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
'Fast-track' proposals will see graduates moving into teaching posts while simultaneously training. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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A controversial fast-track route into teaching allowing graduates to bypass universities is to be put out to tender by the Scottish Government.

It is understood the Scottish Government wants to use its own version of Teach First, a social enterprise charity which fast-tracks high-achieving graduates into schools in England and Wales in priority areas and subjects.

Under Teach First, graduates receive university input for five weeks before beginning work in primary and secondary schools where they deliver 80 per cent of a teacher’s timetable and start working towards the postgraduate diploma in education over two years.

They also receive training from them over the two year course.

Scotland’s schools are suffering from a recruitment crisis with 700 full- and part-time posts unfilled across primary and secondary schools.

The move to such a new teaching model, officially launched by the charity in London in 2003 and which has grown to one of the biggest recruiters of graduates in the UK, has long been dismissed by the SNP and resisted by teaching unions in Scotland.

However, last June the SNP government pledged to “develop a new route” for recruiting teachers into priority areas.

Last night, Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said allowing organisations such as Teach First into schools would be a “betrayal of the high professional standards we operate in Scotland”.

“We strongly oppose any approach which places delivering education cheaply above guaranteeing quality education provision for all Scotland’s young people. The EIS does not support any erosion of that provision nor does it believe that placing unqualified graduates in schools will lead to better or more equal outcomes for those children.

“Given the high General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) standards and the level of professionalism of the teaching profession of Scotland, we do not consider organisations such as Teach First should be involved in Scottish education. They have been rebuffed by Scottish Government in the past and any change in that position would be a betrayal of the high professional standards we operate in Scotland.”

Iain Gray, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman, accused the SNP of “implementing Tory policies in schools”.

He said: “A fully trained and qualified teaching profession has been one of the great strengths of Scottish schools for decades. Our problem is that the SNP has cut teacher numbers by 4,000, and cut the resources they have to teach.

“Now, mired in a mess of its own making, the SNP’s ‘solution’ is to send untrained teachers into our classrooms to teach. This is a desperate attempt by ministers to look as if they are doing something, and to avoid doing what they should – which is to get trained teachers into our schools.

“It is no surprise that the only support for this comes from the Tories.

Mr Gray added: “The SNP has already introduced high-stakes testing into primary schools, and school league tables. It continues to flirt with ‘opt out’ schools – yet another failed Tory policy of the past. It is time the SNP stopped implementing Tory policies in our schools and started supporting Scotland’s teachers.”

Welcoming the move Liz Smith, MSP, Conservative shadow education secretary, said: “It’s certainly very positive to hear that a Scottish equivalent of Teach First is now being considered.

“However, people will be baffled as to why it has taken so long for the SNP to accept the merits of this type of initiative given its success elsewhere.

“At a time when it is so obvious that there are not enough teachers in our schools, the SNP’s persistent refusal to even consider the scheme was foolhardy in the extreme.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Developing new routes into teaching and making the training available to people from a whole range of backgrounds is key to attracting new teachers.

“We have committed £1 million from the Scottish Attainment Fund to develop new ways for people to come into teaching, and will shortly be putting a new initiative out to tender designed to attract high quality graduates in priority areas and subjects.

“Initial teacher education is provided by universities and courses are accredited by the GTCS who are responsible for maintaining teaching standards. Any new route into teaching will require a partnership with a university to maintain academic rigour.

“It is essential all teacher education programmes are of the highest quality. They must deliver appropriate ­content for literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing across primary and secondary sectors.”