Teachers will get last year's student loan payments back under pilot

Teachers will get any student loan repayments they made in the previous year reimbursed under a pilot announced by Justine Greening aimed at improving recruitment and retention.

A briefing document for MPs, seen by Schools Week, sets out further detail on how the reimbursement scheme will work, and where it will operate.

The education secretary announced that the government would pilot the repayments in certain subjects and regions suffering from a particular shortage of teachers. The plan reaffirms her commitment to a loan forgiveness proposal set out in the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto.

The Department for Education will initially target 800 modern foreign languages teachers and 1,700 science teachers.

A document of talking points for MPs reveal that the pilot will be carried out in 24 local authority areas, including Derby, Doncaster, Oldham and Stoke-on-Trent, which are four of the government’s social mobility “opportunity areas”.

The document, which has been circulated to Conservative politicians but not sent to the press, says: “We will take forward our manifesto commitment to introduce a student loan reimbursement scheme for new teachers by launching a pilot aimed at science and MFL teachers in the early years of their career who teach in deprived areas.

“This pilot scheme will benefit around 800 MFL and 1,700 science teachers a year in 24 LAs, which have been chosen because we know they are among those with the most significant challenges. They include Derby, Doncaster, Oldham and Stoke-on-Trent. Those eligible will have student loan repayments they have made in the previous year reimbursed. This scheme will help retain teachers in the areas that need them most.”

This is a somewhat different policy to the one advocated by senior figures in the education sector, including Russell Hobby, the chief executive of Teach First.

Hobby has previously suggested that the government should “write off student debt based on the amount of time someone spends in the profession”. This would be a small amount after a few years, and “a significant amount – say 50 per cent – after five years”.

His suggestion is similar to an approach taken under the “repayment of teacher loans scheme”, which was piloted between 2002 and 2004.

Under the policy, the Labour 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 10 years.