Teachers starting in state schools or teacher training from this September should have their student loans paid off by the government while they remain in the profession.
The Education Manifesto argues that given the twin risks of already declining teacher numbers and the potential from September 2015 of more highly indebted students graduating from university and deciding to go straight into work and not to undertake further teacher training, all parties should commit to a scheme of student loan repayments for some or all teachers who begin teaching in the state sector.
The paper highlights how:
- As the economy grows, the number of people choosing teaching as a profession is declining. Last year there were over 2,000 vacancies in teacher training courses, with particular shortage among certain subjects that command high wage returns elsewhere including physics (67% of places filled), modern foreign languages (79%) and maths (88%).
- Rising debts have the potential to impact graduates’ career choices, in particular acting as a barrier to go into public sector jobs. Evidence from the Higher Education Policy Institute suggests that students studying education are amongst the least likely to say that university is good value for money, and evidence from the US suggests that high debt can make students tend towards seeking out higher paying careers, and specifically avoid going into education
Introducing a student loan repayment scheme would save a typical teacher around £3,800 over the course of the next parliament. The figure is based on an average teacher starting salary of £26,700 who will have student debt worth in the region of £50,000 in September 2015 (the first set of graduates to enter teacher training with £9,000 a year debts plus living costs).
The report says that the costs of introducing the policy would depend on eligibility for teachers, ranging from £33m-£83m a year by 2020.
The manifesto includes a number of other proposals including:
- A requirement for all students to study maths from 16-18 regardless of if they are taking vocational or other academic qualifications, via a series of Ofqual accredited online courses. This would lead to around an additional 340,000 students studying the subject. The UK currently has the lowest participation in maths at this age out of 24 OECD countries.
- A new deal between government and City Regions to create incentives that attract teachers to work across the country. City regions would have the power to offer teachers discounts on housing, childcare and transport costs to attract teachers and their families to live and stay in their areas.
- A new publicly funded retraining scheme to allow adults to become qualified in strategically important sectors such as aerospace and advanced manufacturing linked to the future of the British labour market.
The Sunday Times reported that the Conservatives will be including the recommendation that students should learn maths to 18 in their 2015 manifesto:
"Meanwhile, plans to be included in the Tory manifesto will compel all teenagers to study maths until the age of 18. Downing Street is studying a report by the Policy Exchange think tank, due to be released on Friday, which recommends all A-level students should have to study for a maths qualification equivalent to an AS level. It would mean an extra 340,000 pupils aged between 16 and 18 studying the subject. Labour already plans to make maths compulsory until 18."
Whilst the TES reported that the Conservatives were looking to adopt the policy on paying off teacher student loans:
"A Conservative source told TES the party was “looking into the policy”, adding: “We are warm to it. We are debating whether to put it into the manifesto.”