Cash incentives a short-term answer to teaching shortages, say unions

9 Aug 01
Unions have given a lukewarm welcome to government plans for a £250m sweetener for teachers based in the Southeast who are priced out of jobs because of escalating property prices.

10 August 2001

The National Union of Teachers, while acknowledging that the plans would provide some help for young teachers, said the money would not solve the widespread problem of staff shortages.

Transport, Local Government and the Regions Secretary Stephen Byers is expected to flesh out plans early next month, to give teachers access to interest-free loans and help with deposits on a home. The government said it expected up to 2,000 teachers to benefit from the scheme.

Registered social landlords will be selected to run shared ownership schemes to ensure teachers are not discouraged from working in areas with prohibitive house prices.

Teacher shortages have affected schools across the country, with many unable to provide full education for pupils. Several schools have been forced to instigate a four-day week.

Earlier this year, the former education secretary, David Blunkett, tried to tackle the problem with a £53m emergency fund for hard-hit areas.

But the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers said the government was concentrating on the short-term problems in the Southeast and ignoring those which suffer recruitment problems elsewhere in the country.

The union believes the government should concentrate on increasing basic pay and encouraging a better image for the profession, rather than relying on short-term funding solutions.

Deputy general secretary Chris Keates told Public Finance: 'In the long term, this will do nothing to improve the process of recruiting and retaining staff. Instead of these one-off gimmicks, why not put in place a long-term plan to improve pay and working conditions.

'Making the job an enjoyable, suitably paid career is the way forward to encouraging more people to become teachers.'

But the government said it planned to push ahead with the key worker schemes, which aim to provide funds for nurses, the police and teachers who are priced out of the market in the Southeast.


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