Boris Johnson unveils £3,000 boost for teachers a year after scrapping almost identical scheme

PM also praises work of Brampton Manor academy in East Ham which now ‘sends more kids to Oxbridge than Eton’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 06 October 2021 15:07 BST
Boris Johnson says teachers will get an extra £3k to teach science or maths

Boris Johnson has unveiled a £3,000 premium to encourage talented maths and science teachers to go and work in disadvantaged areas — just a year after scrapping a similar programme.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, the prime minister said there was “absolutely no reason” why some children in the country “should lag behind”, as he set out the new version of an old scheme.

It formed the only policy announcement of his keynote speech, as he ignored benefit cuts, the cost of living crisis and petrol queues while extolling the virtues of the government’s “levelling up” agenda.

“To level up — on top of the increase which means every teacher starts with a salary of £30,000, we’re announcing today a levelling up premium of up to £3,000 to send maths and science teachers to the places that need them most,” Mr Johnson told the Tory faithful.

No 10 later added the premium would be a one-off payment ranging between £1,000 and £3,000 — costing the Treasury £60 million — and teachers will have to be in the first five years of their career.

However, it quickly emerged that the scheme resembled one announced by the Department for Education (DfE) in 2019 for teachers in “uplift areas”, such as Blackpool and Salford, which was scrapped the following year.

Sam Freedman, a former adviser to Michael Gove at the department during the coalition, said the old programme was “pretty similar” to what was announced today, “but they just stuck levelling up at the front of it”.

“They scrapped it last year. What happened was recruitment shot up at the height of the pandemic because obviously other jobs weren’t available, lots of people were on furlough,” he told The Independent.

“And then now obviously we’ve got an overheating labour market, recruitment has fallen through the floor and they’ve just thought we’ve got a real problem again so they’ve just unscrapped some of the financial perks.”

He added: “They are U-turning on rash decision that was made when there was a brief surge in recruitment”.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “The premium announced today is a less generous recycling an old policy that Boris Johnson’s government scrapped just a year ago”.

The announcement also comes after the government faced intense criticism for the money invested in education to help children catch up on lost learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the government’s education tsar, Sir Kevan Collins, resigned from his position, describing a £1.4 billion funding package as falling “far short of what is needed”.

“A half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils,” Sir Kevan said at the time, adding the support “does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge”.

During his speech on Wednesday, Mr Johnson also praised the work of Brampton Manor academy in East Ham — “an area that for decades has been one the most disadvantaged in London”.

“It now sends more kids to Oxbridge than Eton,” the prime minister added. “If you want proof of what I mean by unleashing potential and levelling up, look at Brampton Manor.”

In August the school celebrated after 55 pupils received the required A-Level grades to meet their offers for a place at either Oxford or Cambridge university, compared to 48 from Eton College — a private school attended by the prime minister.

The majority of students at Brampton Manor are from ethnic minority backgrounds, in receipt of free school meals (FSMs), or will be the first in their family to attend university.

“We can do it — there is absolutely no reason why the kids of this country should lag behind and why so many should be able to read or write or do basic mathematics at 11,” Mr Johnson told delegates gathered in Manchester.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “There are challenges in recruiting enough maths and science teachers in general and this can be particularly acute for schools in disadvantaged areas.

“So, on the face of it, this sounds like a good idea and we look forward to seeing more details of how this scheme will work.

“But there is a pressing need to look more widely at the challenges around recruiting and retaining enough teachers in the profession in general as teacher shortages have been a problem for many years.

“One of the problems is that the real value of salaries has fallen over the course of the past decade as a result of the Government’s austerity agenda. Its decision to freeze pay this year has made matters worse.”

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