16th March 2001 at 00:00
I am in my second year of teaching and have just, and not for the first time, been fined by the Government. My crime? I qualified as a teacher in 1999. I am guilty of being an "in-betweenee".

I studied for five years as a mature student with two children and gained a first-class honours degree in science. I then did my year's PGCE course. It was not easy financially, but I thought I was just the type of teacher the Government wanted - a first-class graduate in a shortage subject with "life experience".

Obviously not.

As a teacher who qualified in 1999, I, and my fellow students, missed out on the "golden hello" and on training bursaries (abolished before our training started). Just to add insult to injury, we were also the first intake that had to pay pound;1,000 towards our tuition fees.

How did we survive? We had no option but to take out student loans.

But I tought justice had come for the in-betweenees last month, when David Blunkett announced his "golden handcuff" plan to pay off student loans over 10 years.

Wonderful. This meant I would actually see my newly announced pay rise, which I calculated would cover almost half of my monthly loan repayments. At last there was a slight glimmer at the end of the tunnel.

Then came the kick in the teeth. There would be no golden handcuffs for the in-betweenees - only those recruited over the next three years will benefit from the loan repayment plan.

Yet again, those of us who qualified in 1999 are being penalised.

So here I am, the "perfect" recruit to teaching, demoralised and sorely tempted to leave a job I care about deeply. But I can't leave. I am wearing the lead handcuffs of an pound;8,000 student loan.

Wendy Reed teaches in a middle school in Northumberland

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