A Government scheme to boost the careers of the most experienced teachers has backfired, with few signing up for the initiative, research has found.
Just 59 teachers in England and Wales have joined the Excellent Teacher Scheme (ETS) despite Government estimates that in its first year of operation alone (2006) up to 5,000 would take part.
Many heads and teachers have little knowledge of the scheme, and very few teachers see becoming an Excellent Teacher (ET) as a "realistic" ambition, the Institute for Policy Studies in Education said.
Ministers had hailed the initiative, which was set out in 2004, as a new career route for experienced teachers who wanted to stay in the classroom, rather than take on management or leadership roles.
The research, commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), found that heads in schools with no ETs cited reasons such as budgetary constraints, a lack of appropriate candidates and discouragement from the local council.
A third of the headteachers questioned thought the scheme was divisive.
The report said: "This concern related both to the title Excellent Teacher, and to the process. Some heads felt that to create a post for a specific outstanding teacher could be divisive. One talked about the difficulty headteachers would have in making any internal appointment, and said that staff might perceive any appointment as 'favouritism' and this could lead to 'bitching' in the staff room."
A third of teachers (32%) in schools with no ETs had not heard of the scheme, the researchers found, while just one in 10 had seriously considered becoming an ET. Of those that had become ETs, the vast majority said they didn't like the title, most said they had been teased by their colleagues. In some cases this had made the teacher involved miserable, the researchers found.
The report added: "They felt the title placed an onus on them to be excellent in all aspects of their work, and this was hard to live up to."
ETs were more likely to be appointed in secondary schools, and more than half of those were teaching the core subjects of English, maths and science. A high number of ETs were women, the report added. The report also found that there was widespread confusion about the pay deal for ETs.