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Top-up fees will hurt recruits

Newly-qualified teachers will be among the worst hit by plans to introduce variable university tuition fees, according to teaching unions, opposition MPs and Labour rebels.

They claim that moves to let universities charge up to pound;3,000 a year for their courses will reduce the supply of teachers and cause long-term financial hardship for those who enter the profession.

Eric Illsley, MP for Barnsley, is one of more than 150 Labour MPs who signed an early day motion calling for a rethink of "top-up" fees. He said that fee repayments would be an immediate burden on new teachers because they tended to start on salaries of around pound;17,000. He added that the fees might deter young people from considering teaching jobs.

Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said the fees were a "nightmare scenario" which would reduce the quality of new teachers because students would opt for cheaper courses.

He added that children of teachers are unlikely to qualify for grants or bursaries.

Earlier this week, Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, defended the fee proposals before the education select committee.

Liberal Democrat MP Paul Holmes said it was unfair that an English teacher earning pound;25,000 a year should repay the same as graduates on higher incomes.

Mr Clarke replied that his proposals were "perfectly reasonable". He said raising standards at school was key to widening university access - more important than plans for an admissions regulator.

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