01/05/2012 01:53 BST | Updated 01/05/2012 07:17 BST

Teenagers Should Take Charge Of Lessons To Encourage Them To Teach, Say MPs

Teenagers should be put in charge of lessons to encourage them to train as teachers, MPs said on Tuesday.

"Teaching taster classes" should be offered to sixth-formers and undergraduates to show them the benefits of a career in the profession, according to the Commons Education Select Committee.

It also called for would-be teachers to be observed in the classroom before they are offered a training place to check their suitability for the job.

In a new report, the influential committee examined the best ways of recruiting and retaining the best teachers.

Evidence has shown that very good teachers boost pupils' grades and make a significant difference to their students' future earnings, it said.

The report says that allowing young people to try out teaching could improve the quality of applicants and lead to a lower drop-out rate.

The government should consider developing a formal "internship" system, similar to one run in Singapore, to allow youngsters to experience the "content, benefits and career potential" of teaching before committing to it.

These "taster sessions" should include actual teaching, rather than just observing lessons, the committee said, with students given feedback afterwards.

"Applying to do teacher training is a 'high stakes' decision and the purpose of these sessions is to give people a chance to try out their own aptitude before committing," the report said.

"We believe this approach could help both deter some people who are not best suited to teaching and persuade others to consider it."

The committee also called for all teacher trainers to observe potential recruits in lessons before offering them a training place.

"Our evidence was clear that teacher quality cannot be fully established without observing a candidate actually teach," the report says.

The MPs backed ministers' plans to toughen up the literacy and numeracy tests taken by trainee teachers but suggested caution over the introduction of a test of candidates' personal skills.

The committee said it welcomed the idea but called for the Department for Education to publish details of what the test might include and keep it under close review.

It raised concerns about the government's move to use a potential teacher's degree class to determine whether or not they get a bursary to train.

Under the government's plans, anyone with a third-class degree will not be eligible for funding. But the committee said that the bursary scheme alone will not attract more people into teaching.

"Whilst bursaries will help to attract people with strong academic records, greater effort is also needed to identify which subset of these also possess the additional personal qualities that will make them well-suited to teaching," the report says.

It also backed ministers' plans to create "teaching schools" to train teachers.

While it acknowledged that these schools will be expected to work with universities, the committee warned against any reduction of universities' role in teacher training which would bring "considerable demerits".

The report suggests the creation of a National Teacher Sabbatical Scholarship scheme to allow outstanding teachers to take time out of the classroom to work in a different school, undertake research or refresh their subject knowledge.

It echoes a suggestion made by Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, who said in November that good teachers who suffer "burnout" should be given time off.

It also called for the government to develop plans for a new "College of Teaching", a professional body modelled along the lines of Royal College or chartered institutes seen in other professions.

Committee chairman Graham Stuart said: "It's crucial that we have an educational system which celebrates great teachers, keeps more of them in the classroom, supports their development and gives them greater status and reward."