Tories may pledge to ease burden of debt on recruits

6th March 2015 at 00:00
Party could help to pay off new teachers' student loans

The Conservatives are considering helping new teachers to pay off their student loans in order to make the profession more attractive to graduates, TES understands.

A study published today by thinktank Policy Exchange calls for all parties to commit to a student loan repayment scheme for teachers who are starting work or training in September.

The approach could be applied to teachers of Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, those working in challenging areas or even all state school teachers across England, Policy Exchange suggests.

For a typical teacher who has accumulated about pound;50,000 of student debt, the proposal would amount to a saving of pound;3,800 over the course of the next Parliament, the report says.

A Conservative source told TES that the party was "looking into the policy", adding: "We are warm to it. We are debating whether to put it into the manifesto."

The cost of the policy would depend on how many teachers were eligible, ranging from pound;33 million to pound;83 million a year by 2020, Policy Exchange says. The idea would be likely to garner political support from students considering a career in teaching.

The report highlights that the number of people opting to enter teaching is dropping as the economy strengthens. Last year there were more than 2,000 vacancies on teacher training courses, with particularly acute shortages in subjects such as physics, maths and modern foreign languages.

Student loan debts are putting potential recruits off joining the profession as they seek higher-paying careers, according to Jonathan Simons, the thinktank's head of education.

"There is a risk that increased student debt, combined with the additional cost of teacher training and the relatively low starting salary, will be off-putting to prospective teachers," he said.

"Offering to cover student loan payments is a visible sign of the government's support for the profession and may also act to keep people in the classroom."

Francesca Kettle, who teaches English at a secondary in South London, said the move would make teaching more attractive. "You know you will not earn anything in your PGCE and you won't go on to a huge salary when you start, so it would interest a lot of graduates who have that student debt looming over them," she added.

The proposal was dismissed by the NUT teaching union, however, which argued that focusing on salaries was missing the point.

"For the vast majority of teachers, the motivator to become a teacher is the vocation of the job," executive member Jerry Glazier said. "It's the strong desire to support kids and make sure they have a decent education."

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