UK unions criticize 6-month teacher training plan

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Bankers and other people who have lost their jobs in the recession will be able to qualify as British teachers in just six months and the best people fast-tracked to head schools under government plans announced on Tuesday.

The proposals were criticized by British unions which said potential teachers needed far longer for their training

Schools Minister Jim Knight said the plans were designed to attract “more outstanding people” to the profession, allowing them to achieve Qualified Teacher Status in the half the current one-year time period.

He said the scheme could help those such as bankers, who were excellent mathematicians and had been made unemployed, switch careers.

In addition, the “Accelerate to Headship” program will see all those identified as possible future headteachers put on a fast-track route to allow them to take charge of schools within four years.

“There are thousands of highly talented individuals in this country who are considering their next move, who want to do something challenging, rewarding, that is highly respected and where good people have great prospects,” Knight said.

“By cutting the initial teacher training course to six months for the most able candidates, we will make teaching a more attractive choice for experienced people who want to get into the classroom quickly.”

But unions said six months was too short.

“In a downturn, lots of people come into teaching and some of them stay,” said Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

“But the point is, in the past we’ve never said they can whip in after six months and be qualified,” she told BBC radio.

“I think it demeans the position of people who are teachers at the moment. It doesn’t seem to be a sensible idea at all.

“If we’re really talking about trying to increase the number of people we have working in the early years, then there’s no way that they can do that after six months.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the government was being inconsistent.

“It seems to be a ‘hit and miss’ approach, where on the one hand they believe teaching should be an all-Masters profession, and on the other hand you have a scheme such as this where you can become a teacher within six months,” she said.

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison