Teaching recruit pays his own way

A former fashion designer is borrowing cash for his own salary as he begins his shcool career. Helen Ward reports

FORMER fashion designer Stephen O'Neill is so determined to become a teacher that he will be paying his own salary next year.

The 47-year-old will start at Gothic Mede lower school in Arlesey, Bedfordshire, in September. Mr O'Neill had expected to earn pound;13,000 as an unqualified teacher through the Graduate Teacher Programme.

But he was unable to get his wages funded by the Teacher Training Agency.

Rather than give up on his dream, Mr O'Neill, of Biggleswade, has agreed to pay the school his salary to enable the school to claim a pound;4,000 training grant for him.

Mr O'Neill, who was made redundant from his former job in September, said:

"I was a bit fed up with the rat race and so started thinking about teaching. I spent a day in a school and found it really fulfilling, it was fantastic."

Mr O'Neill applied for jobs under the school-based Graduate Teacher Programme where the Teacher Training Agency provides schools with pound;13,000 towards a student's salary and pound;4,000 towards training costs.

He got a place at Gothic Mede lower where his training was to be overseen by consultancy Start Education. The consultancy applied to the TTA for funding for places in bulk which it could then allocate as a "designated recommending body". But its application failed.

Bedfordshire education authority then found an organisation to oversee Mr O'Neill's training, if he agreed to fund his own living costs. The authority had the pound;4,000 the school needed to pay for training costs, but the cash could only be spent on school employees. Unfortunately for Mr O'Neill, Gothic Mede lower already had a full staff, so there was no money left in the school budget for his salary.

In order to be employed Mr O'Neill must now borrow money to give to the school. The cash will be returned to him, minus tax and national insurance, as his salary - the exact amount has not yet been finalised.

Mr O'Neill said: "I keep reading articles saying there is a shortage of men in primary schools and I could say I won't do it. But what do I do then? I have a mortgage and living expenses, it will not be easy but I will just have to live on baked beans on toast."

A Bedfordshire County Council spokesman said: "If a graduate cannot secure funding from the TTA they are at liberty to self-fund, providing that their placement can be overseen by a designated recommending body. However, as we require a graduate trainee to be an employee of the school, they have to receive a salary. Without the funding from the TTA a school cannot afford to pay this salary from the school budget."

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