Incentives fail to help the poorest trainees

20th August 2004 at 01:00
It has been a rewarding but tough year for me as a newly-qualified teacher.

Why tough? Not because of the pupils, school or workload, but the financial burden of working as a lone parent.

The purpose of this letter is not to grumble about my struggles, but to point out how government incentives for new teachers are not giving enough help to those most in need.

I have spent the past five years raising my daughter as a lone parent.

Alongside this, I have spent the past three years completing training and induction to become an information and communications technology teacher.

I have had many financial struggles, but felt safe in the knowledge that things were going to improve because of my entry into full-time employment and the government incentives that I believed I would be eligible for.

The first of these incentives is repayment of student loans. This scheme pays off any outstanding loans in instalments - as long as you continue to teach a shortage subject. But I am not eligible because I am behind in repayments towards loans from my first degree.

The fact that I was in arrears was due partly to lack of communication on both sides, but mainly to the fact that I have never had enough income to make repayments.

In the past five years, I have either been a student, in receipt of income support or working and paying out large amounts of money for nursery fees.

I am now being asked to pay my student loan back at a rate of pound;239 a month.

The second of these incentives is the Golden Hello - a taxable bonus of pound;4,000 in your second year of teaching. It sounds fantastic, and for most it is.

However, for those of us who are lone parents and receive tax credit, this will be classified as taxable income and deducted from the amount of tax credit we receive. In other words, we will have to pay a significant amount of the Golden Hello back in tax.

The result is that, to some, the Golden Hello is worth very little.

Applying, in some cases, may increase stress as money is not spread evenly through the year or the recipient may have to pay money back at the end of the tax year. I have just one child and receive a relatively small tax credit. There must be others with more children in far worse circumstances, who will see very little of this Golden Hello.

These incentives, created to ease the financial burdens to teachers in their first years, are fantastic for most. Ironically, however, those most in need are benefiting least.

I hope that the student loan company will adjust my repayment amounts and allow me to continue the career that I love. I also hope that someone will recognise the problems with these schemes, and change them to help those who currently find training for teaching financially impossible.

Charlotte Rubringer

95 Victoria Road

Cirencester, Glos

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