Pay off teachers’ student debt, says Policy Exchange

Teachers would save over £3,800 over course of next parliament

Other proposals include ideas on compulsory maths for all 16-18 year olds, incentives to attract teachers to work and stay in regions and a publicly funded retraining scheme linked to growth sectors in the UK’s new industrial strategy

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.

As part of its Education Manifesto, leading think tank Policy Exchange 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:

  1. 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%).
  2. 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).

Policy Exchange 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.

Jonathan Simons, Head of Education at Policy Exchange, said:

“People choose to go into teaching for a number of reasons. But as the economy continues to grow there are lots of jobs becoming available  including some with much higher starting salaries. 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. 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.

“It’s also imperative that our education system provides everyone with the best possible chance to have a secure job which gives them a decent standard of living. In a modern day economy, mastery of maths is increasingly important, as is the opportunity to retrain and develop skills throughout your working life.”


For a copy of the full report contact Nick Faith on 07960 996 233

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