The government has announced a new scheme launching imminently that will pay £2,000 to early career physics and maths teachers in Yorkshire, North East England and other ‘Opportunity areas’ in an attempt to retain shortage-subject professionals past their initial 5 years.
The decision follows research by the Gatsby Foundation and the Education Policy Institute which indicates that such payment would be effective for retention, particularly in subjects where there are highly competitive salaries to be had outside of education, for people with those degrees.
Nigel Thomas, Director of the Gatsby Foundation comments: “We have long advocated the use of modest salary supplements to retain teachers in shortage-subject areas, where better paid opportunities exist outside of the profession. Gatsby’s own research strongly indicates that financial incentives would be more effective at curbing teacher shortages in maths and science than recruitment measures alone.”
The payments will be made in addition to other bursaries and the pilot scheme is funded by a £10 million budget ring-fenced from the last budget.
Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards comments: “In a competitive graduate labour market it is vitally important that we continue to ensure that teaching is an attractive profession so we can train and retain the next generation of inspirational teachers.”
The need for science and maths teachers is expected to become more desperate, as the student cohort in secondary schools is set to increase by 19% by 2025.
The bursary payment opens a floodgate of questions about whether the national teacher pay scales ore no longer fit for purpose in this modern era of competitive career markets. Given that other subjects may carry a heavier workload, is it far that just these shortage subjects attract higher pay?
The disparity between geographical areas adds a further dynamic to the debate; an ‘opportunity area’ is not only one that struggles to attract teachers to teach and live, but one which also has high levels of need among the learners. And once that is defined, how does one quantify the value of an attractive location over an ‘opportunity area’?
In other research by the Gatsby Foundation, it was found that being taught science and maths by teachers who are knowledgeable an passionate about the subjects enabled mastery and increased the curiosity in science that could lead to careers in engineering and science later in life.
For the full rationale on offering retention payments for science and maths teachers, see: ‘What happens when you pay shortage-subject teachers more money? Simulating the effect of early-career salary supplements on teacher supply in England’ (2018).
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