Teaching for top grads

15 February 2008

Noor Al-Bazzaz

Deputy News Editor

More Oxbridge graduates should take up teaching jobs in tough inner-city schools, according to the Prime Minister. Gordon Brown has said that he wants to see hundreds more top students recruited through the Teach First Scheme, which allows recent graduates to teach in deprived areas.

Brown is urging every university in the country to team up with a struggling school and has laid out plans for a new masters program, as part of the launch of an education offensive that aims to “unlock all the talents of all the people”.

The Prime Minister said: “We are setting new targets for transforming and, if necessary, replacing failing schools, demanding of each of them a credible improvement plan because we cannot tolerate children being left behind.”

Stephen Tompkins, an education fellow at Homerton, agreed with Brown’s comments. He told The Cambridge Student (TCS): “Gordon Brown is absolutely right that we need to turn round the situation in our cities.

“Economic disadvantage and social deprivation breeds the low aspiration that is characteristic of our poor urban schools. Our society is at risk. Obviously challenging, able and perceptive teachers are part of the cure.”

But Mr Tompkins argues that newly-graduated Oxbridge students also need a support framework, such as an attractive salary, to encourage them to take teaching jobs in inner city schools:

“Unless the financial incentives are much greater – in line with those of equally challenging jobs in the City of London taken by the far greater number of Oxbridge graduates – one is calling for a disproportionate altruism and self-sacrifice.”

The new initiative will be contributing to both inner city schools and the academy schools set up by Tony Blair.

But some feel that the structure of the new city academies or of inner city schools may be hostile to recent graduates. Academy School English teacher and Oxbridge graduate Tammie Lee told TCS: “Oxbridge graduates can offer intellectually challenging lessons accompanied by high expectations of behaviour.

“The problem is that schools are now being run more like businesses and intelligent teachers no longer have permission to stretch their students and develop abilities in a creative environment”.