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Tories promise to make teaching 'brazenly elitist'

The Conservatives are promising to make teaching "brazenly elitist" by improving the quality of graduates entering the profession in England.

Leader David Cameron said there would be no financial help with training for those who failed to get at least a second-class university degree.

But those with the highest grades in maths and science could have student loans paid off, he added.

The Tories also say they will recruit high flyers from other professions.

But Labour called the plans an "airbrushed re-announcement" of old policies.

The main parties are vying for the middle-class vote at the forthcoming general election, which is widely expected to happen on 6 May.


Labour has announced plans to encourage top professions and universities to attract people from deprived backgrounds, including setting up a commission to look at social mobility.

However, in his speech, Mr Cameron emphasised the importance of teaching to children's education and how to get more good teachers into the classroom.

This would include raising the required standard of entry and setting up a Teach Now scheme to encourage people who had succeeded in other professions to go into education.

The student loan repayment scheme would apply only to graduates getting a first-class or upper second-class degree, Mr Cameron said.

He told an audience at a school in south-east London he would make teaching "the new noble profession".

Mr Cameron said: "We need much greater flexibility than currently exists - flexibility over rewarding the best and yes, getting rid of the worst.

"So we will free schools to pay good teachers more. With our plans, head teachers will have the power to use their budgets to pay bonuses to the best teachers."

To cope with a shortage of maths and science teachers, the Conservatives are promising to pay off student loans for applicants with upper second or first-class degrees in these subjects from "good universities".

'Best talent'

Mr Cameron said: "Everyone remembers a teacher who made a difference through sheer force of personality."

He added: "The quality of a teacher is the single most important factor in a child's educational progress.

"Those taught by the best teachers make three times as much progress as those taught by the worst."

He said: "We don't reach out for the very best talent. If we want to give our children the best education, we must make our teachers the best."

Mr Cameron said: "Finland, Singapore and South Korea have the most highly qualified teachers, and also some of the best education systems in the world, because they have deliberately made teaching a high prestige profession.

"They are brazenly elitist - making sure only the top graduates can apply. They have turned it into the career path if you've got a good degree.

"And in America, President Obama is offering financial incentives to attract more science graduates into teaching. We should be equally bold here."

For Labour, Schools Secretary Ed Balls called the Tories' proposals an "airbrushed re-announcement of existing policies".

He added: "David Cameron also needs to do his homework. Despite his claims, Teach First is exclusively focused on fast-tracking the best graduates into the most challenging urban schools."

Mr Balls also said: "The fact is that teaching has been transformed from a demoralised profession in 1997 to the number one choice for graduates today.

"To attract top professionals to make a career change into teaching we are already working with over 400 leading employers, focusing on key subjects like maths and science.

"And to put teaching on the same footing as high-status professions like doctors and lawyers we are introducing a new Licence to Practise with a right for all teachers to get ongoing training and career development. It's time the Tories backed these reforms."

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Being 'brazenly elitist' could mean being brazenly exclusive of those potential teachers who through no fault of their own have had a tough time in achieving the necessary qualifications.

"Teaching is an extremely demanding profession and not everyone can do it, even those with first-class degrees.

"While qualifications are obviously necessary, being a good teacher is not dependent on academic ability alone."


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Posted in: News on January 24, 2010 @ 12:31 PM

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