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Harris academy chain to build 100 homes for teachers

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The Harris Federation, one of the largest multi-academy trusts, is planning to build up to 100 homes in partnership with a housing association in a bid to stop teachers being priced out of London.

The chain presented a proposal to the Department for Education in March last year about using surplus land it owns that is not required as playing fields for housing projects.

Since then, Harris has been in talks with LocatED, a government-owned property company, about partnering with a housing association to build “100 units” or houses, among other options.

Dan Moynihan, the trust’s chief executive, told Schools Week that he had approached three housing associations, one of which was interested in a partnership.

The housing association could either rent the houses to Harris teachers at a reduced cost, giving the trust the right to “nominate who goes into the houses”, or Harris could retain the houses itself.

Just because we haven’t seen an academy trust partner with a housing association before doesn’t mean it can’t be done

This arrangement is preferable to the “riskier” option of Harris funding a housing development before selling some of the houses to repay the debt, while keeping others for accommodation, he said.

Teachers paying between £800 and £1,100 per month for a room in the capital could expect to pay “towards the lower end” of that scale for a two-bedroomed house in the development, he said.

The rent would be used for the maintenance of the houses and would be entirely non-profit. Families or two teachers might move in, he added.

Harris will continue talks with LocatED on the best model before talking to local authorities about rolling out plans. Building work will “hopefully” start in the next 18 months or so, said Moynihan.

The driving force behind the plans was teachers “being priced out of London.”

“We’ve got to do something about it. Teachers are so important,” he said. “Just because we haven’t seen an academy trust partner with a housing association before doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

If the model is successful at attracting teachers and financially viable, Moynihan said “other trusts will look at this,” as “it’s clearly an obvious way to do it”.

Meanwhile, in Essex, another trust is offering free accommodation as a perk to attract good maths teachers.

Hathaway Academy, which belongs to the Academy Transformation Trust, is promising a free bedroom in a house with a garden for an “outstanding” maths teacher during their tenure in an advert posted last week.

The school has been trying to fill the post since February. Ten teachers already pay affordable rent in the former caretaker’s house – teaching either English, science, geography, maths or languages.

Since last week’s advert, the school received an increased number of applications and has now filled the position, a spokesperson told Schools Week.

Harris has also spent £200,000 converting a caretaker’s house into four-bedroom accommodation at below-market rates in Peckham in south London, said Moynihan.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said school leaders who found innovative solutions to the recruitment crisis were to be “applauded” yet these measures “shouldn’t replace a national strategy.”

“It’s the government’s responsibility to guarantee that every school has enough teachers to fill every post,” he said, adding that the best incentive was to have a well-paid workforce with good morale.

“Currently this isn’t happening.”



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4 Comments

  1. Martin Matthews

    Great to see Harris Federation thinking creatively and finding a traditional solution from another sector.
    This is an entirely sensible idea to meet the demands of teachers for reasonable cost accommodation and schools for skilled teachers.

  2. This raises so many issues.

    Where does the money come from to subsidise this accommodation?
    How do other schools compete for new teachers? Do they get the same housing back-handers to give to their staff?

    Surely teachers should be paid well enough to afford accommodation, and to be able to choose their accommodation like any other professional.

    Harris already has a reputation for over-working its young teachers such that the turnover is very high https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/oct/13/schools-harris-academy-teachers-ofsted . Now their teachers will not have an escape route.

    Are we moving to a “profession” were you don’t need QTS, you don’t need a degree, and you are paid so poorly that you rely on patronage like a navvy in the boss’s on-site caravan.

    Someone at the DfE needs to get a grip!

  3. Kevin Quigley

    “Surely teachers should be paid well enough to afford accommodation, and be able to choose their accommodation like any other professional”
    Interesting statement that. There is a common misconception around the teaching is badly paid “compared to other professions”. Which professions might these be? Granted, if you compare to doctors it is a valid argument but let us consider actual pay structures across industries employing graduates. But across the gamut of graduate jobs I can assure you that most struggle to keep on a pay scale that matches teaching.

    Take my daughter for example. A good Chemistry Masters graduate working for a large business in the south east. She earns £23k. She pays over £700 a month for tiny bedroom in a house shared with 6 others. She gets 4 weeks holiday a year. Her place of work is on an industrial estate (literally) in the middle of nowhere. She does not drive so relies on public transport, which in this particular area is bus only.

    I used to be Chair of Governors of a large primary school, outside London weighted area, so I know about teacher pay scales. My wife was a deputy head of a primary. I am not saying for a second that teachers don’t deserve the pay they get. What I am saying is that pay rates are good compared to other sectors employing graduates. The opportunities for pay progression expand further in the secondary sector.

    You can argue the toss about pay levels but the harsh reality is teachers are no longer the badly paid profession they used to be up until 1997.

    Is it wrong that Harris wants to build homes for their teachers? No. I wish more large businesses and Government agencies did the same. Some do. The MOD has a huge housing stock ( of varying quality), several large multi nations own hotels or apartment complexes in cities to attract staff. The large private schools often have housing for their staff. Dare I also say, nurses, medical staff etc also in ‘tied accommodation’. This is not a new concept. A straw poll of young graduates (by me) indicates that they would be more likely to apply for a job (based on the same role) at an organisation that provided help with accommodation.

    So if my daughter could share a subsidised house for less money, provide by the employer, what would be wrong with that? Most young professionals would jump at this because it immediately removes the need to find a place to live, and it also creates a social environment of others working in the same sector (if that is seen as a good thing!). If, further down the line, they choose to move out and team up with others elsewhere then that is perfectly possible, people are always free to move out if they choose to.

    So I see this as a positive solution to a genuine issue.