Private schools to take on Teach First for best graduates

The Times, 27/09/14, Greg Hurst reports on the launch of HMC's Teacher Training scheme. Chris King, HMC Chairman Elect and Headmaster of Leicester Grammar School is quoted.

Private schools are to launch a direct recruitment programme for teachers, seeking to rival Teach First in attracting top graduates into the profession.

The independents will prepare high-flying graduates for headships and train them in the classroom rather than in universities.

The Headmasters and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents 260 leading private schools, will initially recruit 100 graduates, each spending two years learning on the job.

It had to drop the title Teach Direct because Teach First had patented a raft of names and instead will call the programme HMC Teacher Training.

Teach First — which is backed by top City firms and has the Prince of Wales as its patron — has enjoyed phenomenal success in recruiting highly qualified graduates to teach in tough schools.

It came second in the The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers and has grown from an initial intake of 100 to hiring 2,060 graduates a year.

Many independents have traditionally employed graduates directly from universities, training them as teachers alongside experienced colleagues, as their staff have not been required to have formal qualifications. They also recruited from university training courses and part of their reason for acting now is alarm at cutbacks in these, in response to the growth of Schools Direct and Teach First.

It is the first joint training programme by HMC schools and has been developed by Chris King, headmaster of Leicester Grammar School. He said: “Shrinking numbers of PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) places in universities means a risk of reduction in high-quality teacher trainees entering the profession.”

Recruits will have costs paid for by the school and work in a specialist subject at a secondary school. They will be offered a two-year contract, gaining qualified teacher status after a year.

James Westhead, executive director at Teach First, said: “We believe that teachers can have the greatest impact, and in turn benefit from the most rewarding careers, by teaching in schools in low income communities.”

A recruitment expert yesterday predicted a risk of shortages of teachers in some subjects as head teachers were more selective when hiring candidates via Schools Direct. Professor John Howson, honorary research fellow at the University of Oxford, said that he was concerned about shortages in sciences, English, maths and other areas.

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