Students Who Go On To Teach Poor Children Should Have Tuition Fees Paid Off, Stephen Twigg Says

Twigg's Golden Promise To Students Who Become Teachers

Top-performing students could have some of their tuition fees paid off by the taxpayer in return for becoming teachers in deprived areas of the country under plans being drawn up by Labour.

The incentive scheme is part of a package of reforms described by shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg as a "New Deal for Teachers", including a doubling in size of the Teach First scheme.

In an echo of Ed Miliband's bid to highlight his state comprehensive education in his party conference speech, Twigg will praise the teacher who inspired him to be the first from his school to go to Oxford University.

And he will say that in order to apply the Opposition leader's newly-adopted "One Nation" philosophy to education requires a reversal of the Government's "out of date and backward looking" policies.

Addressing the final day of the Manchester gathering, he will warn if the government introduces regional pay in public services, it could result in teachers in the "toughest schools in the toughest neighbourhoods" getting lower pay.

That would undermine the need to make teaching - as in Finland and South Korea -"an elite profession for top graduates".

Instead graduates should be offered financial rewards to take on those jobs, he will say, such as the debt write-off scheme.

With the party desperate not to be seen to be making unaffordable spending promises however - and with Nick Clegg's apology for doing so to students over not raising tuition fees still fresh in the mind - the idea remains an aspiration.

Twigg wants to pilot the project, perhaps even before the general election via Labour-run councils, but admits there is "a lot of work to do" to draw up detailed figures on how much debt would be covered or how many schools would be included.

Teacher numbers have fallen by 10,000 in one year under Education Secretary Michael Gove, he will tell delegates, as he outlines a range of ideas to raise both the number and quality of entrants to the profession and to improve classroom standards.

Doubling the number of top graduates coming through the Teach First scheme at year to 2,000 could be done within existing budgets, he will say, as well as making funding more flexible to make it easier for teachers to do a master's degree.

Labour would also look at creating a National College for Teaching Excellence to boost in-job training in the style of medical Royal Colleges - with a tougher requirement for individual teachers to show year-on-year improvement in their performance.

"We have the best generation of teachers ever," he will tell the final day of the Manchester gathering.

"But it can be even better. We will establish a New Deal for Teachers. New rewards and new entitlements to training and with the responsibility to improve year on year."

He will go on: "The key to One Nation Education is not the type of school but what happens in the classroom. Our education system is only as good as its staff.

"The best countries in the world for education see teaching as an elite profession for top graduates.

"Take teacher recruitment. In England we consider it a success when we fill every vacancy. But in Finland and South Korea, there are 10 applicants for every place."

In an attack on the government, he will say: "Our biggest challenge is how to get our economy growing.

"We're not the biggest nation. So for a country like ours, it's smart to be smart.

"Education isn't just a moral right, it is an economic good too. The Tories claim they want high standards. But they've put standards at risk. The biggest cuts to education since the 50s, and teacher numbers falling.

"Michael Gove claims to be in favour of rigour. But he is totally outdated. Rote learning and regurgitating facts. An exam system from the 1950s. We believe young people need both knowledge and skills. The rigour of the future, not the past."

Unlike his party leader, the shadow minister said he did not expect his former teacher - the "most ironically named" Coward who taught him A-level economics at Southgate comprehensive in north London - to be in the audience for the speech.

"Probably without him I would not have gone (to Oxford) because it wasn't something that generally was encouraged," he said.

Christine Blower, general secretary of The National Union of Teachers, said: "Coherent support services, provided by the Local Authority and high quality in school support is more likely to attract teachers to all schools, including those in areas of disadvantage.

"If there is public money to pay off or reduce student fees it may best be used to support those young people who have been deprived of the Educational Maintenance Allowance."


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