Teach First hits back at new private school trainee scheme

Concerns have been raised by Teach First about a scheme to place trainee teachers into top private schools.

Earlier this week the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), announced plans to train graduate teachers in its network of 260 leading independent schools.

The programme, called HMC Teacher Training, is being introduced in response to a “sharp” reduction in teacher training places at universities, a spokesperson said.

HMC’s full-time two-year course will allow trainees to gain a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE), accredited by Buckingham University, and giving them permission to work in private or state schools across the UK.

It is expected most trainee teachers on the programme will be recruited from Britain’s top universities, such as those in the Russell Group.

However, Teach First, a government funded teacher training scheme since 2003, insisted HMC Teacher Training was not a “Teach First route for the Independent Sector”, despite the fact that Teach First also target Russell Group students and offer a two-year school-based course, leading to a PGCE.

James Westhead, Teach First executive director, said: “It is inaccurate to describe the proposed scheme as a Teach First route for the Independent Sector, when the scheme is simply the opposite of why Teach First exists.

“We believe teachers can have the greatest impact, and in turn benefit from the most rewarding careers, by teaching in schools in low income communities where they can help to transform the future of children’s lives – often in schools which struggle to attract new talent.”

George Kynaston, a graduate of the Teach First programme, said: “I am concerned that the HMC scheme appears to have been designed as an explicit rival to Teach First.

“While I can see that each school wants to recruit strong teachers for their classrooms, this scheme strikes me as an unexpectedly aggressive move.

In support of the new route, HMC chairman-elect and headmaster of Leicester Grammar School, Christopher King said: “An excellent education requires excellent teachers, and so we are also committed to attracting the best new talent into the teaching profession.”

Will Bickford-Smith, also a Teach First ambassador and now teacher at an independent school, said: “Offering individuals greater choice over how they would like to train and where they would like to teach must be seen as a welcome development in the teacher-training market.”

The first batch of around 100 graduates will begin the HMC training scheme next summer. Recruits will be offered a training wage and have their £8,000 training cost paid for by the schools.

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