Pay more in poor areas

1st August 2008 at 01:00
Think tank says schools should opt out of national deals to attract better teachers

Pay is the biggest barrier to professionals and undergraduates becoming teachers, according to an influential think tank, which has called for schools to be allowed to opt out of national deals.

Policy Exchange, which has close links to Conservative leader David Cameron, says in a report that schools in deprived areas should be allowed to pay more as a way of attracting better teachers.

The national teachers' pay agreement "inevitably" discriminates against schools in disadvantaged areas, the report says.

The think tank was until recently chaired by Michael Gove, the Tory shadow education secretary.

The report argues schools are prevented from using pay to compete with schools that can offer "more pleasant working conditions" to attract good teachers. But teaching unions claim it would only shift staff shortages to other schools.

The Policy Exchange analysis is the latest in a string of high profile think tank reports arguing that the quality of teachers is key to improving education and more needs to be done to raise pay and status.

The think tank also says standards in initial teacher training are "too low". It recommends a major shift towards more practical school-based training with BEd undergraduate courses phased out and a reduction in the number of PGCE places by as much as a quarter.

Teachers should be given faster routes to higher salaries, it says.

"Having to stay in the profession for 10 or 20 years to earn a decent salary is a massive disincentive," said Sam Freedman, Policy Exchange head of education research.

A YouGov poll of professionals commissioned by Policy Exchange found that pay was easily the biggest barrier to them becoming teachers. Among undergraduates not in teacher training, pay came just behind "feeling unsafe in the classroom" as the greatest deterrent, even though more than a third of them significantly overestimated teacher starting salaries.

Pay dependent on length of service rather than performance was seen as unattractive by 69 per cent of professionals and 57 per cent of undergraduates.

"Low salaries and a lack of glamour deter good graduates from teaching," the report says. It advocates a "pupil premium policy", with substantial extra funding attached to disadvantaged pupils.

It says if the schools they attended were allowed to opt out of national agreements, they could use this extra money for good teachers.

On teacher training, Policy Exchange recommends developing the current Teach First scheme as a route for "elite" students working in the most challenging schools.

It proposes the creation of a Teach Now programme to replace the graduate teacher programme as a more mainstream route for career-changers or recent graduates who want to train entirely in schools.

The trainees would receive salaries to be funded by a 3 per cent reduction in teaching assistants, whose work they would cover.

A new Teach Next programme would allow professionals from outside education to be seconded to a school's senior management team on leadership level salaries while they trained to teach.

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