Tories consider plan to pay off teachers’ student debt

 Policy Exchange, student loans

The Conservatives are considering helping new teachers to pay off their student loans in order to make the profession more attractive to graduates, TES understands.

A study published today by thinktank Policy Exchange as part of its manifesto for education calls for all parties to commit to a student loan repayment scheme for teachers who are starting work or training in September.

For a typical teacher who has accumulated about £50,000 of student debt, the proposal would amount to a saving of £3,800 over the course of the next Parliament, the report says.

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.”

The cost of the policy would depend on how many teachers were eligible, ranging from £33 million to £83 million a year by 2020, Policy Exchange says.

The report highlights that the number of people opting to enter teaching is dropping as the economy strengthens. Last year there were more than 2,000 vacancies on teacher training courses, with particularly acute shortages in subjects such as physics, maths and modern foreign languages.

Student loan debts are putting potential recruits off joining the profession as they seek higher-paying careers, according to Jonathan Simons, the thinktank’s head of education.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Other proposals in the manifesto include:

  • All students to study maths to the age of 18, whether they are taking vocational or academic qualifications, through Ofqual-accredited online courses.
  • An incentive programme, such as discounts on housing, childcare and transport, to be established in city regions to attract teachers to work across the country.
  • Increasing the role of schools in early years provision.

To read more on this and other stories get the 7 March edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

Related stories:

Student loans ‘putting off’ trainee teachers – 10 November 2014

Teachers “will never pay off their student loans” and could cost the government £110k each, union claims – 5 November 2013

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