The Teach First scheme should be extended to primary schools to attract high calibre graduates into those schools serving poor areas, according to a joint report from the Sutton Trust and the National Education Trust, published today (June 26th).

In addition, the Report calls for £10,000 ‘golden handcuff’ payments for exceptional teachers working in the in the most challenging primary schools. Such payments are currently only available to secondary school teachers.

The proposals are among a number of measures aimed at boosting the status of primary teaching and attracting high-fliers. The proposals include:

  • Creating a ‘Teach Primary’ route to raise the profile and prestige of work-based routes into the sector, drawing on the best of existing programmes.
  • Extending the Teach First scheme, which currently focuses on secondary schools, to inner city primary schools.
  • Providing financial incentives to teachers in the most challenging primary schools, these to include higher starting salaries and retention payments such as the ‘golden handcuffs’ initiative.
  • Making the primary career structure more attractive by increasing the number of schools in so-called “consortia’ so that ambitious and successful head teachers can be given responsibility for a number of schools.

The Report argues that the primary sector is often overlooked by policymakers and is often seen as a second-class route into teaching. Yet the primary years are critical in both preventing social inequalities from dominating children’s educational experience and for providing a solid foundation to be taken into the secondary school. There is a particular problem in recruiting men into the profession; currently just 16% of primary school teachers are male.

James Turner, Director of Policy at the Sutton Trust said: “Effective teaching targeted at those who need it most is critical in reducing the inequalities that emerge pre-school and widen with age. If we can get more high quality teachers into our poorest primary schools – and reward them for staying there – then we will be much better placed to ensure that children from all backgrounds enter secondary school with the skills and knowledge to prosper.”

Roy Blatchford, Director of the National Education Trust, commented: “Good and great teachers make a lifelong impact on us all. Primary schools across the country are constantly seeking to employ high calibre teachers. We need to find ways of doing this that break new ground and don’t just rely on past practices. If we make a real difference in primary schools, we can truly realise ambitions to deliver a world-class education service.”

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