Conservatives pledge to let off teachers from student loan repayments, reveals election manifesto

Industry leaders suggest teachers taking on subjects facing critical shortages such as science could have student debts cleared after five years

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The Independent Online

Teachers are to be let off student loan repayments as a reward for not quitting their jobs, the Conservative Party has announced.

In its election manifesto, the party said it will offer forgiveness on payments for all new teachers in order to help them “remain in the profession”.

The proposals follow concerns over a teacher recruitment and retention crisis that has led to dramatic staff shortages across the country in recent years.

Earlier this year a cross-party board of MPs said "urgent action" was needed to address the problem, which is set to worsen as pupil numbers are expected to soar to 3.3million over the next three years.

“Dedicated support” will also be brought in to help teachers throughout their careers, the manifesto document states, following union demands to address workload pressures they say are driving thousands of teachers away from the profession.

Commenting on the announcement, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are pleased to see that the Conservatives are promising ‘forgiveness’ on student loan repayments to help attract people into teaching. 

“Our proposal is that the government should commit to pay off the annual repayment of tuition fee and maintenance loans owed by teachers for as long as they remain in the state school system. 

“The loan could be written off entirely after a certain period, for instance ten years. We believe that this approach would help to address the ongoing recruitment and retention crisis, although other actions will also be needed.”

Scrapping debts for teachers has been suggested by a number of education organisations and charities in recent years.

Following the announcement of the new manifesto, social media users welcomed the suggestion, likening it to a "pay rise" for teachers.

But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said the proposals were not enough to solve the ongoing shortage.

General Secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said: "The crisis of teacher recruitment is such that this intervention will be needed for today’s teachers not just tomorrow’s.

"The measures promised for addressing the teacher recruitment and retention crisis are necessary but far from sufficient – and they lack either strategy or an evidence base."

Earlier this month, Teach First suggested as much as 50 per cent of student debt should be cleared after five years for new teachers working in challenging areas, or as a reward for teachers in shortage subjects such as maths and science.

A plan to create a single jobs website for schools has also been included in the manifesto as a way to cut costs and help schools find “the best teachers”.

The party said it wants “great people to become teachers, teach in our most challenging schools and stay there”.

“To help new teachers remain in the profession, we will offer forgiveness on student loan repayments while they are teaching and bring in dedicated support to help them throughout their careers,” it adds.

The manifesto promises to keep “bursaries to attract top graduates into teaching”.

It pledges greater help for teachers in the “preparation of lessons and marking”, including through the use of technology, and to “bear down on unnecessary paperwork and the burden of Ofsted inspections”.

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