When discount days are over

7th May 1999 at 01:00
Council tax, prescription charges, dental bills - and then there's the loan: Phil Revell's financial forecast.

First appointment, and for many, first salary, first taste of financial freedom, and first loan repayment. A pay cheque beckons. But first this year's newly qualified teachers have to survive the summer. Anything up to 16 weeks of penury before September and the prospect of some cash.

There are ways round this. Many schools offer the prospect of summer supply teaching to newly appointed staff. This has the double benefit of keeping the wolf from the door and allowing welcome experience of the school in advance of the hectic September start.

Some LEAs pay "golden hellos" and Hull hit the headlines last month when it offered teachers rent-free housing on the town's largest estate. Residents on the estate interviewed for Radio 4 thought that teachers would either be given "a really warm welcome" or "a lot of stick and abuse".

Those who successfully evade the bailiffs until September could still face some unpleasant surprises. The transition from student to employed status has a few financial implications of its own. New teachers will be liable for council tax, they will have to pay prescription charges and dental bills. They'll no longer be able to use their students' union card to gain discounts - though a young person's railcard can be used until the age of 25.

And then there is the loan. Most new teachers entering their career this year will have borrowed from the "mortgage-style" student loans scheme (sometimes called scheme 1). Students who have been on four-year courses will have been able to borrow a maximum of pound;6,450, although the Student Loans Company (SLC) says most will have borrowed less.

The direct debit repayment authority which students signed when they took out their loan won't become active until April 2000, and even then most new teachers will be earning less than the pound;16,439 threshold. It is likely that most will want to defer their loan repayments, especially as they will incur no financial penalty.

Deferring the repayments is a simple process. Teachers simply need to send the student loans company three payslips which show that they are earning under the threshold of pound;1,482 per month before deductions. Some will want to begin repayments early.

"It's a psychological thing," says a SLC spokesperson. "Some people want to clear the debt as quickly as possible, especially if they are entering into other loan commitments."

* Jo Higson, 23. Teaches PE at the Plume School in Essex "I did a sports science degree in Birmingham for three years, then the PGCE. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do at 18. It wasn't until I was at university that I decided to become a teacher. At one stage I wanted to be a physiotherapist. I'm living with the same girl I shared with in Birmingham, we both got jobs in Essex. She bought a flat in Chelmsford and I'm renting from her. I had to buy a car: I still owe my parents for that one. Over the four years I took out four student loans. It's pound;5,000 don't have to pay back anything yet, but I've started to make some payments. They estimate that it could take six years to pay it back.

"It's definitely harder than I thought it would be, I'm not brilliant at keeping my spending under control. Essex give relocation expenses, but that went fairly quickly. Now that I'm working I use the Midland three-year overdraft facility. It's interest-free for three years.

"I was with the Halifax but I changed after I graduated because I thought the Midland offered more. I've just been promoted so that's a little more money for next year. I'd encourage people to take a loan. If I got the chance to do it all again, I'd still go to Birmingham and I'd still take out the loan."

* Richard Tutt, 27, married. Teaches physics at the Beacon Community School in Crowborough, East Sussex

"I worked for four or five years as a youth worker and assistant minister for a church in Lewes before doing a post-graduate certificate in education course at Sussex. My original degree was physics at Birmingham. I did my second placement at the Beacon and got to know the school.

"I really wanted a job to come up and when it did I applied straight away. It's superb, I enjoyed the PGCE, but it's not a patch on doing it for real. I like the fact that they're my classes that I've set up as I wanted to.

"I commute up to Crowborough. It takes about 25 minutes, but I get a lift with another teacher. Lewes is expensive, but none of the younger staff live in Crowborough. Most live in Brighton or Lewes.

"I took out a student loan for my PGCE that amounted to pound;1,600 by the end of the course. I missed out on the bursary for science and maths teachers. We managed because my wife worked. We bought a house in Lewes where I was working before, so we've had the mortgage and the bills to pay.

"We've just finished paying off an overdraft. It took us seven months to get rid of that. I've deferred the student loan repayments for a year. It could take a couple of years to get rid of that.

"It cost a little more than we thought really. I managed to get a grant from Sussex, but when it all worked out we'd spent more than we planned to. I don't the regret the decision at all. I knew from the beginning that as a teacher you don't get much money. I went into it with open eyes."

* Mahbuba Hasnath, 22. Teaches business studies and IT at Bordesley Green Girls' School in Birmingham

"I did a three-year combined PGCE and business studies degree at Wolverhampton University. I stayed at home. There was a course on my doorstep, and it was the course I wanted to do. It had nothing to do with me being a Muslim. I certainly wasn't forced to stay at home.

"I haven't taken out a student loan at all. I got some support from my parents, but not having to spend money on rent or household expenses really made a difference. I applied for about five or six jobs before getting this one. I started the post in January. I had been doing some supply in the autumn term here, then the post came up.

"Bordesley Green is a largely Muslim girls' school. But that wasn't the issue. I needed a job and there was one here. It may give the Muslim population a role model but that wasn't why I took it. It's been fairly tough, getting used to being on the other side of the table. It's nothing like teaching practice.

"There are travelling costs and although the school is well resourced I've spent some money on background materials for my own use. And there are things such as medical expenses, prescriptions, dental bills, things which are no longer free.

"Perhaps I've missed out in the sense that I still don't really know what it's like to live on my own and handle my finances - the realities of being away from home. But in every other way it has been a good thing."


Barclays annual Graduate Survey revealed that the cost of going to university has risen dramatically over the past five years.

The survey found that:

* Graduate borrowing levels had increased by 103 per cent since 1994

* Graduates owed a total of pound;814 million

* 1998 graduates owed a total of pound;814 million six months after graduation

* The average amount owed by each 1998 graduate was pound;4,497, compared with 1994 graduates, who owed an average of pound;2,212

* Seventy-nine per cent of 1998 graduates borrowed an average of pound;2,865 from the Student Loan Company while at university

* Fifty-nine per cent of 1998 graduates had borrowed money from their main bank, and owe an average of pound;1,112

* Those graduates fortunate enough to find work in their preferred career are earning on average pound;15,551 per year, 16 per cent more than an average graduate salary.

This compares to the entry level for most teachers, which is pound;15,537.


l Consider a graduate account with the Midland Bank, which offers an interest-free overdraft for three years after you have left college. Barclays and Lloyds also offer interest-free graduate accounts

* If you are planning to buy a property think about taking out a slightly larger loan and using the money to clear your overdraft. Long-term loans are a cheaper form of borrowing and many come with incentives.

* Don't use credit cards as a way to borrow money - the interest rates are exorbitant. Clear your bill every month.

* If debt becomes a problem seek help sooner rather than later. The National Debtline on 0121 359 8501 tells you your local advice centre, or try your local Citizen's Advice Bureau

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