Skip to main content

Goodbye to golden hellos

Fledgling teachers miss out on incentives as vacancies are snapped up

YOUNG TEACHERS who were promised lucrative "golden hello" payments when they trained are missing out because they are being forced to work as supply staff or in private schools.

The problem has been caused by the very success of the incentive scheme, which offers payments of up to pound;5,000. Because teacher shortages are being addressed, there are not as many jobs available to certain staff as expected.

The discovery came as the Government proposed to expand the scheme. Alan Johnson, Education Secretary, has suggested that the Training and Development Agency for Schools use it not just to entice science and maths teachers, but also to attract staff to work in tough inner-city schools.

A loophole in the scheme's rules means that teachers only get the payment if they are employed by a local authority when the payment is due, in their second year of teaching.

Young people have been attracted to teaching by the incentive payments, only to discover when they graduate that the shortages in their subjects no longer exist and they can only get supply work.

Teachers who work for independent schools or private supply agencies - even long-term at state schools - are not entitled to the payments.

Sharon Whitelee, 33, left a financially secure job in industry in 2004 to train as a modern languages teacher. She received a pound;6,000 bursary when she was studying and a letter promising her a pound;4,000 golden hello at the end of her first year of teaching.

But by the time she graduated, the shortage of language teachers in the north had abated, and this year she has worked as a long-term supply teacher at schools in Hull and near York.

On applying to Hull city council for her golden hello, she was told that she was not entitled to it because she was a supply teacher.

"The Government are not fulfilling their promises of paying out the golden hello to new teachers," she said.

"This is happening more than we care to realise, which is one of the many reasons people feel disillusioned with the profession."

Ms Whitelee, who teaches French and Spanish, said the fact that she was a supply teacher should not make a difference.

"I am doing the same job as any other teacher," she said. "I still have books to mark, duties to fulfil and a responsibility for delivering the national curriculum, exactly the same as a permanently employed teacher."

New figures from Education Data Surveys show an overall year-on-year decline in teaching vacancies, though there are still shortages in physics and chemistry and in the inner cities.

Vacancies in some subjects where trainees expected golden hellos - English, ICT and design and technology - have declined by 17 per cent. Although the number of vacancies in modern languages has remained static, declining rolls in the North have also meant fewer languages vacancies there.

Professor John Howson, director of EDS, said the good news for newly-qualified teachers was that many older teachers would be retiring in the near future. The bad news was that falling pupil numbers and government funding constraints would mean few new jobs.

Officials had paid golden hellos in subjects where they were never needed, such as English, he said, while reducing payments in others where they would have helped.

Alan Johnson lauded the scheme in a recent letter to the TDA, directing it how to spend its pound;770 million funding.

An agency spokesman said that golden hellos had been successful incentives for recruiting and retaining teachers in priority subjects such as maths and science.

The agency fully reimbursed all golden hellos made by local authorities, he said, but he encouraged young teachers to discuss specific eligibility questions with their school or local authority.

Who is getting the cash?

Science and maths teachers are entitled to a pound;5,000 cash payment when they complete their initial teacher training and their first year's work, up from pound;4,000 in previous years.

This academic year, for the first time, music and religious education teachers are also entitled to payments of pound;2,500. But payments to English, modern languages, design and technology and ICT teachers have been reduced from Pounds 4,000 to pound;2,500, as shortages in those subjects are addressed.

As the vacancies are filled, the Training and Development Agency for Schools has been paying out more in golden hellos than officials projected.

In 200607, it paid out pound;28 million, pound;3 million more than it had projected. This year it is budgeting for pound;29 million.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you