Paying teachers more to work in poorly-performing areas of the country could help end regional inequality in education, former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has suggested.
The ex-Liberal Democrat leader, who is chairing a cross-party commission aimed at addressing inequality in the education system in England and Wales, said that pay incentives could “play a role” in encouraging the best teachers to work in underperforming regions.
At the launch of the new commission, set up by the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) think-tank, Mr Clegg said: “One challenge that has become clear is how to get high-quality teachers into struggling schools in remote or coastal areas.
“Teach First has had great success bringing talented young teachers into deprived inner-city areas in London, but it is one thing to attract bright people to live in one of the world’s great cities; getting them to move to more remote parts of the country is quite another thing. So we need fresh ideas about how to attract and retain high-quality teachers in these places.”
The research from the SMF released today found that 70 per cent of 16-year-olds in London gained five good GCSEs compared with 63 per cent in Yorkshire and Humber, with such inequalities persisting – and in some cases worsening – over the past three decades.
Mr Clegg added at the launch that incentives for teachers are “not entirely driven by pay, but pay may well play a role in it”, but he conceded that it was an “incredibly sensitive issue”.
He said: “It may play a role in trying to get some of the brightest teachers, the best teachers into those schools where they are presently not putting themselves forward for employment.”
Rebecca Allen, director of Education Datalab, a research organisation specialising in schools, said at the launch that she found it “curious” that teachers are paid the same regardless of the type of school that they teach in.
Dr Allen added that it is “really tough” to attract high-quality teachers to remote areas of the country as there is a low teacher turnover and therefore limited vacancies for teachers to apply to.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “We recognise the need to spread educational excellence everywhere and, thanks to the hard work of teachers and our ambitious reforms, there are 1.4 million more children in good or outstanding schools since 2010.
“In a recent report, the Public Accounts Committee found the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has fallen at both primary and secondary level.
“However we recognise that there is more to do – we are expanding the Teach First and Schools Direct programmes and launching the National Teaching Service, which will mean more great teachers in schools in every corner of the country, so that we can extend opportunity to every single child and ensure all schools can recruit the teachers they need.
“The pupil premium, worth £2.5 billion this year, is providing vital support to disadvantaged children and helping ensure every child, regardless of their background, is given the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”