Schools’ recruitment crisis could be eased by writing off student tuition fee loans for teachers if they stay in the classroom for 10 years, headteachers have suggested.
The move would help to attract young people to the profession, according to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).
Under university reforms introduced in 2012, students now get a government-backed loan to cover tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year. Graduates begin paying the money back once they are earning at least £21,000 a year.
ASCL’s interim general secretary, Malcolm Trobe, suggested that freezing repayments, or writing loans off after a set period, would be an incentive for university-leavers to join teaching, instead of other professions that offer higher starting salaries.
Ahead of his speech to the union’s annual conference in Birmingham, Mr Trobe said: “We’ve made a few suggestions, such as raising the level at which they have to pay their loans back or writing off the loans, or freezing them for a while then writing them off. For example, after 10 years teaching their loan is written off.”
Although this may not impact young teachers immediately, they would feel the benefit as they move up the pay scale, he said.
“If you work it out, on that money over £21,000 you’re paying your national insurance, pension contributions, which have gone up, tax and then there’s another nine percent for loans on top. That’s a big, big chunk of your money.
“For people who are looking at living expenses, trying to set themselves up in a new home, get a mortgage, it’s going to be difficult.”
Figures published by the National Audit Office show that of teachers who qualified over a 10-year period, 12 per cent left the state sector within one year of joining, while 28 per cent left within five years.
Mr Trobe said: “Something has to be done about it and the one percent salary cap over the duration of this parliament will create an additional pressure, when you’re in competition on salaries with other professions – a lot of them are £30,000 compared to £21-26,0000 for teaching.”
In his speech, Mr Trobe told members: “Although individual schools and groups of schools together have tried a range of strategies to attract teachers they are all casting in the same pond with a decidedly limited supply of fish. We need more fish in the pond.
“If government is serious about helping us as school and college leaders to keep raising standards by relentlessly improving teaching it must take action on teacher supply.
“As an Association we have made practical suggestions of strategies that could potentially alleviate the situation such as writing off the student loan repayments for teachers.”
The government has previously said that it is investing hundreds of millions of pounds in teacher recruitment, as well as offering bursaries and scholarships and giving headteachers freedom over staff pay.