Teachers’ pay should be overhauled and their probation periods extended to three years, the government’s social mobility commission has said.
The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s state of the nation report has called for “drastic action” to tackle recruitment problems, which it said were being “exacerbated” by emerging gaps between teacher pay and that of other graduate professions.
The commission – chaired by former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn – warned there was “limited evidence” of the success of the government’s “expensive bursaries policy”, and called for initial teacher training fees to be scrapped as one of a series of incentives to attract the 25,000 extra teachers needed by 2020.
The report said that while pay restraint had played an “important role” in the government’s fiscal plans, it risked “creating a long-term problem for the profession” if the gap between teacher pay and other top graduate professions “continues to increase”.
It added: “An important gesture that could be made here would be to scrap fees for initial teacher training, paid in 2014/15 by almost 30,000 trainees. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has highlighted that these fees will never be paid off by the average teacher, so the costs of our proposal would be minimal.
“Beyond this, the government should review entry- level pay to ensure that the teaching profession competes with its competitors, including top graduate employers.”
The report went on to say that the “quid-pro-quo” for increased entry-level wages should be an increase in teachers’ probation periods from one to three years, and called for schemes to write-off a proportion of teachers’ student debts and help them buy houses to be piloted in parts of England.
The recommendations over pay have been welcomed by Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who said the country was “in the grip of a teacher recruitment crisis”.
He added: “Reversal of the real-terms erosion to teachers’ pay that has taken place in recent years would be a good starting point.”
A government spokesperson said: “This government is committed to an all-out assault on poverty.
“The pupil premium and school reforms are ensuring every child gets a good education.”
In summary: the recommendations
– Take seriously the gaps emerging between teacher pay and that of other professions, particularly at the bottom of the pay scale.
– Scrap fees for initial teacher training.
– Review entry-level pay to ensure that the teaching profession competes with its competitors.
– Do more to clarify and explain the potential career paths of teachers
– Increase probation period for teachers from the current one year to three as “quid pro quo” for increased entry-level wages.
– Change track on the large bursaries offered to enter the profession.
– Trial writing-off a proportion of teachers’ student loans for each year that they teach at a particularly challenging school.
– Pilot a new help-to-buy scheme exclusively for teachers, targeted at first-time buyers moving to eligible areas (where they must also teach) from a non-eligible one.
– Look at working with areas with new devolved powers, such as Manchester, to support the creation of area-wide relocation packages, as suggested by Policy Exchange.