A CONTROVERSIAL fast-track teaching scheme promotes the idea of middle class graduates “as the saviours” of pupils from deprived backgrounds, researchers have said.

The accusation is contained in a highly critical research paper by academics from Glasgow University of the English-based Teach First programme.

Teach First is currently considering whether to bid for a new fast-track teacher training programme being tendered by the Scottish Government. The government has commissioned the pilot to help solve a growing recruitment crisis in schools, with more than 700 unfilled vacancies this summer.

READ MORE: Top Scottish universities shun Teach First scheme

However, the paper, jointly authored by Professor Trevor Gale, head of the School of Education at Glasgow University, highlights a raft of concerns over the programme.

It says the ideal Teach First candidate is a middle class graduate from a prestigious Russell Group university – while the pupils they tend to work with are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It states: “Some 75 per cent of Teach First recruits are middle class and they are primary placed in schools in areas of deprivation.

“The Teach First website and marketing material employs a direct rhetoric portraying schools from disadvantaged backgrounds as suffering a significant and long-standing problem that only the sort of motivated and high-calibre teachers that Teach First produces are able to fix.

“Teach First is represented as the saviour coming to the rescue of deprived children.”

The paper also warns that Teach First is not just an alternative route into teaching because for participants use the scheme as an intermediate step towards another goal.

“Teach First thus subtly shifts the emphasis of teaching away from serving the educational interests of school students and towards serving the career interests of its trainee teachers,” the report states.

“In this sense Teach First and their equivalents are more directly geared towards the success and advancements of their participants than they are concerned with lessening inequality and the students they teach.

“This also de-professionalises teaching ... as it is not seen as a worthy end in itself but as a basis for other careers.”

READ MORE: Top Scottish universities shun Teach First scheme

The paper, which is written on behalf of the Scottish Council of Deans of Education "at the invitation of the Scottish Government", goes on to highlight the relatively low retention rates of Teach First.

It states: “Teach First teachers have higher rates of attrition than teachers in general. Almost half do not remain in teaching after the two year programme has concluded.

Because teaching is considered by Teach First as an “intermediary step” the relatively high attrition rate “is not simply an unforeseen side effect, but it is a fundamental part of the programme itself”, the report adds.

A Teach First spokesman dismissed the paper saying it ignored many positive findings about the programme.

He said: “This paper is unbalanced, failing to recognise independent statistical evaluations of our impact and effectiveness, but instead draws on opinion.

“Evidence shows students with Teach First teachers achieved better GCSE results compared to similar schools, and better than other departments in the same school.

“Education Scotland have also described Teach First as highly effective and clearly successful.”

He said Teach First had been rated “outstanding” by English inspectorate Ofsted and that they were confident and proud of the positive proven impact they made on the lives of young people.

READ MORE: Top Scottish universities shun Teach First scheme

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said the research “confirms many of our concerns” regarding Teach First.

He said: “Our very strong view is that this type of model is neither desirable nor suitable for Scotland’s teacher training requirements, and does not offer a sustainable model of teacher recruitment for schools.

“We are clear that enhancing the status of teachers by improving career progression, reducing excessive workload demands and, crucially, by significantly improving pay, is the key to solving challenges in teacher recruitment.”