Loans to trainee teachers unlikely to be recouped

IFS study says finding raises questions about student finance system for ITT

November 10, 2014

A typical teacher from a postgraduate training route will not even begin to pay back their tuition fee loan, raising questions about the structure of student finance for initial teacher training.

This is according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which found that the cost to the government of each trainee teacher can vary by more than £30,000, depending on their route into the profession.

On some undergraduate initial teacher training courses the cost is as little as £10,000, while for those taking the School Direct (unsalaried) route for trainees in high-priority subjects such as maths and physics, that cost can rise to £42,000.

“Remarkably, under the new student loan system the government receives no repayment of the loan provided for a postgraduate ITT course from a typical teacher,” said Chris Belfield, research economist at the IFS and co-author of the report.

“That fact may not be appreciated by those considering a career in teaching who may be put off by an apparent cost they will in fact be unlikely to bear.”

For tuition fee-funded training routes specifically, the cost to government ranges from £13,000 to £18,000 per trainee for postgraduate ITT, and from £10,000 to £,000 for undergraduate trainees. A teacher with typical career progression would not earn enough to pay back the full value of their loan before it is written off, the report finds, with a typical postgraduate trainee not even beginning to repay their loans.

However, the most expensive training route for central government is the new School Direct unsalaried route for trainees in a subject deemed to be high priority, such as maths and physics. This route costs government about £42,000 per trainee, because participants are eligible for a bursary award or scholarship funding in addition to student finance.

According to the report, The Costs and Benefits of Different Initial Teacher Training Routes, schools are more likely to state that the benefits outweigh the costs of school-based training routes than they are for university-based routes. This, it says, gives some support to the government’s emphasis on the benefits of school-based training, although trainees from different routes were perceived by schools to be of largely similar quality, the report found.

According to a recent Universities UK report, the government’s shift towards a school-led system of initial teacher training (ITT) has made it unsustainable for universities to employ full-time members of teacher training staff.

“The overall costs and benefits of different teacher training routes depend largely on the costs to central government and these costs vary significantly by route and trainee characteristics,” said Ellen Greaves, senior research economist at the IFS and lead author of the report.

“Being clear about the rationale for the current system of funding is important. There is now a broad range of initial teacher training routes which may help ensure that a wide range of potential trainee teachers consider and train for the career.”

The report was produced in collaboration with the Institute of Education and the National Foundation for Educational Research with funding from the Nuffield Foundation.

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