A call for help with teachers’ mortgage deposits and for closer work between schools has been backed by school leaders, as a leading education organisation warned of “deeply entrenched” inequality across the country.
The Fair Education Alliance, which consists of more than 50 organisations including the National Association of Headteachers, Teach First, Save the Children and Family Links, has demanded an overhaul of careers guidance, a mortgage deposit scheme for teachers and “a greater effort by schools to promote the wellbeing and mental health of students”.
In its latest report, the alliance said that, while there had been marginal progress on some indicators in the last 12 months, including GCSE attainment in the north east and a slight narrowing of the university graduation gap, progress had been static “on the majority of indicators”.
Extra support and networks for teachers are among its demands, and the alliance wants to see a mortgage deposit scheme launched to incentivise high-performing teachers to commit to a particular area by helping them onto the housing ladder.
The mortgage proposal bears similarities with a rent deposit scheme suggested by Nicky Morgan last year, except it is aimed more at getting teachers to remain in certain areas, rather than help them afford to move there in the first place.
Morgan wrote to the School Teachers’ Review Body in October, urging it to consider granting schools more flexibility to recognise good performance with bonuses and other incentives. She also floated the possibility of making it easier for schools to let teachers move down to lower pay scales in exchange for a salary advance to cover rent deposits.
The alliance has also recommended that every school be part of a cluster or collaboration of schools, including academy chains, federations, cooperatives or any similar structure with “strong mutual accountability”.
Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the mortgage deposit scheme was an “innovative approach”, accepting that recruitment problems were “particularly acute” in the most challenging areas.
“The report also recommends that every school should be part of a network in order to build best practice. This is a core principle of our blueprint for a self-improving system and we are providing support and advice to schools to help them form these crucial partnerships,” he added.
Character development, wellbeing and mental health should be “promoted and measured”, the alliance said, and school staff should get evidence-led professional development and training to “enable them to better support the development of these key qualities in children”.
“Schools should develop an integrated approach to the character development of pupils, including a focus on social and emotional skills and good mental health for both children and staff,” it added.
Its final call is for highly trained advisers to be placed in the most disadvantaged schools to guarantee pupils receive “individualised and impartial expert advice”.
“Schools should build strong long-term partnerships with one or two key businesses on careers advice and the process should begin at primary school,” it concluded.
Sir Richard Lambert, who chairs the alliance, said: “Inequality in education is deeply entrenched in our country and our report is a stark reminder of the scale of the challenge. But I am confident that we can and will close the education gap.”