Why Boris Johnson’s £3k incentive to attract maths teachers to inner-city schools doesn’t add up

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, never one to turn down the offer of free money himself, believes a ‘levelling up premium’ could help resolve teacher shortages in disadvantaged areas.

It was his one big policy announcement in his speech to the Conservative Party conference. But does this make sense and would it even make dent in the problem.

The money will be targeted at ‘early career’ teachers – those in the first five years of the profession – who are specialists in maths, physics, chemistry or computing. It will entice the ‘best’ new teachers to work in the disadvantaged communities that ‘need them the most.

The Department for Education unveiled a two-year pilot scheme in 2019, offering maths and physics teachers in poorer areas a £2,000-a-year incentive to stay in the job. It was recently scrapped, alongside cuts to teacher training bursaries. There has also been another scheme offering £5,000 to maths teachers in recent years. It’s been an attempt to lure maths graduates into classroom careers rather than jobs in the lucrative private sector.

Politicians love to come up with short-term fixes to longstanding problems. But the solutions rarely work, at least on their own. So will Boris Johnson’s levelling up premium buck the trend?

Stephen Gorard and Beng Huat See, who are both education professors at Durham University, are sceptical.

In a recent piece for The Conversation, they wrote: “Our research shows that…

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