Teacher sabbaticals 'should be on new PM's to-do list'

Policy Exchange education manifesto calls for smaller early years class sizes, focus on behaviour and FE funding boost

Policy Exchange thinktank's manifesto on education calls on new PM to focus on teacher retention

The next prime minister must act to keep teachers in the profession by offering them sabbaticals and bursaries to study for higher degrees, a thinktank has said.

In the latest in its "What do we want from the next prime minister?" series, the Policy Exchange thinktank looks at education. It calls for the new PM to focus on improving poor behaviour in schools, reducing early years class sizes and improving further education.


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“Pursuing the drive to improve behaviour, embracing knowledge-rich curricula and enabling teachers to pursue their passion for their own subject can all raise outcomes and aid teacher recruitment and retention,” Nick Gibb, schools standards minister, writes in the foreword to the report.

Bid to raise standards

The thinktank's education manifesto has been released as the latest official figures show that almost one in three teachers are leaving the classroom within five years of joining the profession.

The education manifesto outlines six priorities for the new government:

  • Raise standards in schools.
  • Improve teaching.
  • Incentivise teacher retention and recruitment.
  • Enhance the quality of FE.
  • Incentivise take-up of vocational qualifications.
  • Maintain the quality of the higher education sector.

Tackling poor pupil behaviour, which Ofsted has said this week is a key reason for low morale in the profession, is “vital” in the move to raise standards, the report states.

It also suggests that class sizes in the early years foundation stage in schools should be restricted to 15.

And it recommends keeping the Sats tests at the end of primary school – but sending schools guidelines with a particular emphasis on “ensuring children are not placed under unnecessary pressure”.

The report also says that giving teachers time and space “to reconnect with the subjects about which they are passionate” is essential in attracting people to the profession.

It suggests the government should explore a bursary scheme to fund a higher degree for those who have completed a minimum of three years in the classroom – and that it should enable teachers to take a sabbatical after a minimum of five years.

The current government has said it is committed to working with teachers and headteachers to deliver an effective sabbatical pilot, which would support teachers to do academic research or acquire experience working in a relevant industry.

'Imperative' to boost FE funding

Today's report says that extra funding to bring FE and sixth-form colleges in line with the funding for schools is “imperative” and points out that “post-Brexit, it will be more important than ever for employers to be able to recruit from an adequately skilled workforce”.

It also calls for the next government to:

  • Support a knowledge-based curriculum.
  • Make T levels compatible with A levels and allow transfer between the two.
  • Increase funding for and awareness of apprenticeships at all levels.
  • Review university admissions processes with a particular focus on the impact of unconditional and contextual offers.
  • Reduce university tuition fees to £7,500 as recommended in the Augar review.
  • Cut interest rates on student loan repayments

The Policy Exchange series "What do we want from the next prime minister?" has been backed by Sir Lynton Crosby, the election strategist who has worked with Boris Johnson.

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