Call for city regions to offer teacher relocation packages to attract new staff

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CITY regions should use new devolved powers to attract teachers to their area through discounts on housing, childcare and transport costs, according to a new think-tank report.

The Policy Exchange suggests that combined authorities could create area-wide relocation packages to boost the recruitment and retention of teachers.

It also says teachers starting in state schools or teacher training from this September should have their student loans paid off by the Government while they remain in the profession.

As part of its Education Manifesto published today, the centre-right think tank identifies “twin risks” of already declining teacher numbers and the potential for graduates who have paid higher tuition fees being put off a potentially lower paid career in public service.

It suggests all parties should commit to a scheme of student loan repayments for some or all teachers who begin teaching in the state sector.

The report says such a scheme would save a typical teacher around £3,800 over the course of the next Parliament, with a cost to government of between £5.5m to £13m in 2015, rising to between £33.5m to £83m by 2019.

The think-tank also highlights Ofsted’s concerns that some areas of the country face difficulties recruiting teaching staff.

Ofsted’s regional director for Yorkshire Nick Hudson has previously identified this as an issue facing parts of the county - both in some deprived inner city areas and along the coastal strip.

In their manifesto Policy Exchange suggests that the devolution of powers to regional authorities could allow teachers to be offered incentives.

It says that as the first combined City Region Manchester should explore how to grow its pool of teachers and attract experienced teachers.

Devolution has been high on the political agenda in Yorkshire since the independence referendum in Scotland.

South Yorkshire has recently agreed devolved powers giving it more local decision making over transport, business support and skills.

However a deal between Whitehall and local authorities for devolved powers to West Yorkshire has yet to be reached.

The Policy Exchange manifesto says one issue to consider for city regions wanting to attract teachers is the “trailing spouse problem” - being able to meet the employment needs of teachers’ partners.

Its recommendations for attracting teachers to the regions include prioritising them for access to financial support to housing and developing region wide professional development and leadership training.

Other proposals in the policy include a requirement for all students to study maths from 16-18 regardless of what other vocational or academic qualifications they are studying. It says this could be done through Ofqual accredited online courses and would lead to around an additional 340,000 students doing the subject. The report warns that the UK currently has the lowest participation in maths at this age out of 24 OECD countries.

Head of education at Policy Exchange, Jonathan Simons, said: “People choose to go into teaching for a number of reasons. But as the economy continues to grow there are lots of jobs becoming available including some with much higher starting salaries. There is a risk that increased student debt combined with the additional cost of teacher training and the relatively low starting salary will be off-putting to prospective teachers. Offering to cover student loan payments is a visible sign of the Government’s support for the profession and may also act to keep people in the classroom.

“It’s also imperative that our education system provides everyone with the best possible chance to have a secure job which gives them a decent standard of living. In a modern day economy, mastery of maths is increasingly important, as is the opportunity to retrain and develop skills throughout your working life.”