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George Osborne needs to impose a "66% of savings must be saved" rule on spending ministries

Michael Gove has just announced a very sensible way of encouraging more science graduates to enter secondary and primary education:

"We will do as President Obama is doing and create new incentives for new teachers. We will offer every graduate with a first or upper second in maths or a rigorous science subject from a good university the chance to have their student loan paid off in its entirety if they opt to go into teaching.

For every year top science graduates spend in the classroom the state will bear the cost of paying off their loan obligations. If scientists make a long-term commitment to teaching then the entire burden of the loan will be lifted from their shoulders.

I expect that the majority of scientists tempted to take up this offer will want to go into secondary teaching, but the offer isn’t restricted to those who go into secondary schools.We need great minds at every level in every school. We have undervalued primary school teaching in this country for far too long, and underplayed the importance of deep subject knowledge in the primary curriculum. We have paid for that with generation after generation of young people arriving at secondary school significantly behind the level of achievement enjoyed by children in other nations. I want to see that change. 

We will pay for the cost of this initiative - which could amount to as much as £40,000 per individual teacher - by abolishing a specific layer of bureaucracy in the Training and Development Agency for Teachers.I think it is right where we can identify savings to prioritise investment in those areas which really drive educational achievement and no priority for investment is more important in my eyes, or yields such dividends for the future, as investment in teachers and teaching."

I hope our initiative will create a new generation of superb science and maths teachers, I anticipate that these teachers will make a long term commitment to the profession, diminishing the churn that characterises the system now. And I believe we will have taken another significant step towards replicating the virtues of, indeed potentially overtaking, the world leaders in education such as Finland and Singapore."

I agree with Michael Gove's established concern that we need more children educated in science and this is one good way of encouraging this.

I do worry, however, about the tendency of frontbenchers to find good ways of spending savings. Given the state of the public finances it might be wise for George Osborne to impose some sort of rule on them. To incentivise a search for efficiencies they should be able to keep, say, one-third of savings across their departments but two-thirds need to go towards repaying Gordon Brown's debts.

Tim Montgomerie


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