The government will pilot a scheme of student loan forgiveness for teachers in shortage subjects working in areas of the country struggling with recruitment.
Justine Greening, the education secretary, told the Conservative Party conference today the policy would support schools to “attract and keep the best of the teaching profession”.
First mooted in the party’s general election manifesto, the idea will now be trialled in modern foreign languages and science.
A press release from the Department for Education says the pilot will involve around 800 modern foreign language teachers and 1,700 science teachers a year.
A typical teacher in their fifth year of work would benefit from around a £540 annual reimbursement through the scheme, according to the press release. Those with additional responsibilities would get more.
The amount suggests the scheme will pay-off loans for each month a teacher is working, rather than “forgiving” the loan at a percentage rate, as has been advocated by Russell Hobby, chief executive of Teach First.
Not the first time for loan forgiveness
A student loan repayment scheme for teachers has been piloted in England and Wales before.
Between 2002 and 2004, graduates could apply to the Repayment of Teacher Loans scheme, in which the government paid off 10 per cent of a new teacher’s total student loan each year if they taught a shortage subject. The plan was to pay off loans completely for anyone staying in the profession for ten years.
The scheme was discontinued after the academic year 2004/05.
Sir Richard Lambert, the chair of the Fair Education Alliance, said the proposal was a “welcome step” towards improving teacher retention.
“We are in the midst of a crisis and it is essential the government takes action such as this to incentivise top people into low-income schools where they can make the biggest difference,” he said.
“Just last month the 86 organisations of the Fair Education Alliance highlighted teacher retention as a key barrier to addressing the persistent gap in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier peers. In the report we recommended financial incentives such as loan forgiveness as a way of solving this crisis.”