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Friday, 2 February, 2001, 09:47 GMT
Young teachers struggle with debt
clare gladstone and martyn knapton
Paying off student debt comes before saving for a house
As the teachers' pay review body makes its recommendations, BBC News Online reports on what the salaries mean in one area of high housing costs: Bristol.

Clare Gladstone and Martyn Knapton can only look wistfully at estate agents' leaflets for houses they cannot afford to buy.

We are talking about recruiting the very best - second best isn't good for our children

Bristol head teacher
The two young teachers reckon it will be years before they can pay off the debts accumulated during their university training, never mind think about moving out of rented accommodation.

They share a two-bedroom maisonette with another young couple in a part of Bristol where many students live.

Between them they earn about 34,000 - and have debts of more than 15,000.

The sort of houses they would like to buy are upwards of 85,000.

Housing allowance

They do not see why the government cannot provide some salary uplift for teachers in areas of relatively high housing prices as they do in the London area.

"I'm 24 now and I've only just started teaching so I'm at the bottom of the ladder," said Clare.

"I really would like to start and buy property and I do want to stay in Bristol - I'm committed to the school, commiteed to teaching - but at the moment I certainly can't afford it and I can't see that I will in the foreseeable future either."

She is frustrated to be in a profession with recruitment problems - especially being in one of the shortage subjects, maths.

As an engineering graduate, she see people who were students alongside her earning more.

"It's the same with maths graduates - they're snapped up by companies and they can earn up to 30,000 easily.

"But the job's good so that's why we do it, I suppose."

Debt burden

Her partner says he feels as though he is banging his head against a wall.

"I've been in the job for two years, I really haven't paid off the debt I thought I would when I came into the job.

"I'm paying out rent to a landlord and I might as well be throwing it down the drain," Martyn said.

alan ward
Estate agent Alan Ward: "Teachers can't afford these properties"
Alan Ward, a director of estate agents Clark & Co, said house prices in Bristol had doubled over the past few years and were at their highest since the 1980s boom - with the average over 100,000.

Teachers would not be able to get a mortgage on a property on their incomes without a substantial deposit, he said.

"It makes it very hard when maybe they've grown up in this area or have rented accommodation in this area and want to be in this area, and they can't afford to buy."

Ray Priest, head teacher at St George Community College, where Martyn Knapton teaches geography and humanities, said he wanted any pay review to indicate that people are valued.

'Challenging area'

"I think it's good to have any pay rise that's above the rate of inflation and we have to obviously be grateful for that," he said.

"But I don't think it's going to address the issue in terms of teacher recruitment.

"Bristol like many urban areas obviously has the conditions in the schools that require often teachers who are willing to take on real challenge.

Ray Priest
Head teacher Ray Priest: "Need to recruit the best"
"But at the same time housing in urban areas obviously tends to be more expensive."

This posed an additional recruitment problem.

"Because we are talking about recruiting the very best - second best isn't good for our children."

His school was fully staffed, but he had seen considerable drop in applications when vacancies arose.

"For any post we used to advertise we used to have many, many applicants, and that has gradually diminished and tailed off - and that's at all levels, not just young entrants to the profession," he said.

"We are fully staffed but I fear that the future isn't looking quite so good."

People coming into what was a challenging job did not need additional worries about whether they could afford a decent standard of living.

pauline north
The NUT's Pauline North: "Pay review body is the problem"
"People are going to weigh up the challenges with what they are going to be paid and then they are going to draw up a conclusion and at the moment I fear some of those conclusions are going to take people away from the profession."

The National Union of Teachers representative in Bristol, Paulette North, said there was a need, after 10 years, to look at the pay review body itself.

Her union wanted negotiating rights to be restored, and was calling for a 2,000 across-the-board pay rise.

"If this government is true to its word and wants to work seriously with the trade unions then they should stop being hypocritical and actually restore our pay rights."

It was "absolutely ludicrous" that a major trade union had its members' pay imposed, she said.

Teacher Clare Gladstone
"I'm at the bottom of the ladder"
Teacher Martyn Knapton
"Banging my head against a brick wall"
Estate agent Alan Ward
"Prices have doubled"
Head teacher Ray Priest
"We need to attract the best"
The NUT's Paulette North
"Give us back negotiating rights"

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