Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg, says university students who opt to become teachers in deprived communities would have part of their tuition fees paid off by the taxpayer.

Twigg’s proposals include a doubling in the size of the Teach First plan. This scheme encourages “dynamic, passionate individuals to raise the achievement, aspirations and access to opportunity of pupils from low socio-economic backgrounds” by becoming a teacher for a minimum of two years. Further, he has suggested teacher taster sessions for those seeking first-hand experience.

Behind this new initiative – dubbed a ‘New Deal for Teachers’ – is Twigg’s overarching belief that it is the standard of teaching that is of most importance and, as such, other proposals including academies and free schools are far less crucial.

In pursuit of top-class teaching, the Shadow Education Secretary would inaugurate a National College of Teaching Excellence, both to develop and guarantee the standards of the teachers it produces. It would have equal status with a medical royal college and would act alongside the existing National College for School Leadership – designed to represent Headteachers – to facilitate this new standards-driven directive.

Twigg has said that he is critical of Government plans to introduce regional pay in public services, thereby resulting in teachers in the “toughest schools in the toughest neighbourhoods” getting lower pay, as it would thus undermine those teachers and the “elite profession” of which they are part.

His scheme to offer financial incentives to undertake such roles is an attempt to level the playing field of teaching standards across all demographics; it is also a direct riposte to Michael Gove’s educational policy, under which teaching numbers have decreased by 10,000 in one year.

The newly founded Twitter pressure group comprising (mostly) of secondary school Headteachers indicates that Twigg should be able to rely on a solid core of support. The group has expressed its belief in the need for an alternative in education policy, and has identified Labour as the best hope of achieving it.

To this end, Twigg has already expressed his desire to pilot his project via Labour-controlled councils. He does admit, however, that a certain amount of clarification in terms of the amount of debt to be covered and the number of schools to be included is still required.

Stephen Gilmore

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