Now it's cash for English teachers

16th February 2001 at 00:00
English was discreetly added to the list of shortage subjects this week, as the Government announced it would be paying off student debts as an incentive to would-be teachers.

Filling English teacher-training places has traditionally never been a problem. Universities produce as many English graduates as maths and languages combined.

Those studying to teach the subject at secondary level will become eligible for pound;4,000 golden hellos. They could also have student debts of up to pound;10,000 paid off by the Government, if they stay in teaching - a new incentive which would also be available to new maths, science, modern foreign language and technology teachers.

"If they're having to offer golden hellos for English, then it's acknowledgement that we really do have a crisis," said Professor Mike Newby, chairman of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers.

He welcomed the Government's commitment to reconsider paying pound;6,000 training salaries to fourth-year students on BEd training courses. UCET has lobbied for the concession since the salaries were introduced for one-year postgraduate courses last September. The salaries and other incentves will be reviewed after three years, as part of the Government's triennial comprehensive spending review.

But Professor Newby was sceptical about suggestions that undergraduates on non-teaching courses could fit in some teacher-training in their summer holidays, albeit with the incentive of the pound;6,000 salary spread over three years.

"There's not a lot going on in schools during the summer holidays. Undergraduates need to earn money, but some also need a holiday. I'm also anxious about the impact on students' undergraduate programme," he said.

The proposals received a similarly mixed welcome from John Bangs, assistant general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

"They are introducing a two-tier system into schools - those who have their debts paid off because they teach shortage subjects, and those who don't. The retention issue hasn't been tackled."

Tackling the latter would require a decent pay rise, he said.

Meanwhile, a city accountancy firm is warning that new teachers who have their student loans paid off by the Government would find themselves hit by the taxman for an extra pound;30 a month.

Letters, 17

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