One Country’s Solution to a Teacher Shortage: Cold, Hard Cash

January 28, 2019, 12:20 PM UTC

Teacher shortages have become a serious problem in England, where the number of secondary school students is expected to rise by 15% by 2025 and teacher recruitment has consistently fallen short.

Politicians in the U.K. have a new plan for dealing with shortage: Giving new teachers cash if they stick with the job, the BBC reports. The plan released on Monday would pay some secondary teachers £5,000 ($6,575) in their third and fifth years in the classroom, on top of initial £20,000 training grants. The early career payment scheme has already been trialled for math teachers, which are in especially short supply.

Teachers’ unions said more help for young recruits is essential in raising teacher numbers. But Labour politicians have criticized the plan, saying it will not reverse “six consecutive years” of missed teacher recruitment targets.

Some young teachers leave the profession quickly after becoming overworked and burning out. Of teachers who started in 2012, a third were no longer teaching in 2017. Politicians hope that increasing financial support, offering bonuses and reducing overall teaching time will encourage teachers to stay in the field. Teachers working in more challenging schools might receive more money.

The tactic is also being tried in some school districts across the United States, where shortages and low pay have contributed to teacher strikes in California, West Virginia and Oklahoma and many other states in the past few years.

The school district in Aurora, Colo., started testing out an incentive plan last year that put $1.8 million towards attracting and retaining up to 400 employees in hard-to-staff jobs such as health specialists as well as special education teachers and secondary math and science teachers at targeted schools. New employees and teachers who make an early commitment to return could get a $3,000 bonus, and those who committed to return otherwise could get $2,500.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects elementary and secondary teacher employment will grow by 7% to 8% by 2026, on track with overall labor growth. An opinion piece in the Washington Post said there’s no silver bullet for improving teacher retention—individual school environments and local variables strongly affect retention rates.