The minister will join trainee teachers, students, council official and dignitaries for a celebration of initiatives by the authority to encourage local people, particularly those from minority ethnic groups, to enter teaching via non-traditional routes.
Over the past year, Tower Hamlets Education has:
- supported the Urban Learning Foundation in setting up a three-year Early Years degree course and enabled six teaching assistants to attend whilst on full salary. All of the candidates have made a commitment to teach in Tower Hamlets schools once qualified
- provided bursaries for students attending the Access to Primary Teaching Course through the local FE college
- encouraged the uptake of Individual Learning Accounts and subsidised courses which provide stepping stones towards formal teacher training. To date, nearly 70 teaching assistants have taken up this option. The local authority has funded cover so that the assistants can attend the training in paid time
- formed a partnership with UNISON, the public sector workers union, to promote the take up of courses and to run accredited courses in study skills for returners to learning, also literacy courses, mainly for those who have English as a second language
- provided 19 bursaries of£5,000 each to students educated and resident in the borough who wish to take a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
- funded a 'Future Teachers' group to encourage graduates and final-year degree students to consider teaching as a career and to provide the necessary support to enable them to achieve this
All of these initiatives are set against the background of a national teacher shortage that is particularly marked in London. There is also a high turnover of teachers leaving the inner city after a few years of work to live in areas where property costs are lower. Men and women, recruited locally, and who have family ties in the local community are more likely to remain teaching in Tower Hamlets schools.
Tower Hamlets has a high percentage of pupils (71%) from minority ethnic communities, with a significant proportion (54%) of Bangladeshi origin. Although the percentage of teachers (14.3%) from minority ethnic groups compares favourably with the national average and that of other ethnically diverse communities, Tower Hamlets is determined to increase this figure to be more representative of its local community.
Speaking on the progress that the local authority has made in its teacher recruitment drive, lead member for education, cllr Helal Abbas said: 'Tower Hamlets is committed to funding training and employment-related schemes to support the recruitment of teachers from the local community, with a particular emphasis on bilingual teachers. We are therefore delighted that the Schools Minister has recognised the efforts we are making in this regard.'
The visit of Estelle Morris comes barely a week after Ofsted gave the education authority a glowing report, describing it as 'a success story'. She commented then: 'Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest areas in the country with high levels of social deprivation. Its significant progress shows that even in the most disadvantaged areas LEAs can succeed with the right leadership.'
Ms. Morris' visit also follows the announcement, a fortnight ago, of two more beacon schools - Clara Grant and Bigland Green primaries, bringing the total number to four.