A girl in school uniform laughs while holding a basketball and playing with her schoolmates in the playground.

A manifesto for change


A child from a disadvantaged background is on average 18 months behind their peers when they take their GCSEs1. And they’re three times more likely to be excluded from school. This is unfair.  

Schools serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds are tackling some of the country’s biggest issues. Many are supporting their pupils to achieve incredible things against the odds. They show that success is possible with the right support. We need to get behind every school and teacher working to change the lives of these children.  

Investing in education has the power to give young people a stake in their future. It has the potential to overcome the growing skills shortage our country faces. It has the power to unite us.  

In conversation with teachers, Teach First ambassadors and business leaders we’ve produced a manifesto for change. We’re calling on all political parties to pursue these proposals to unlock the potential in every child:   

A child from a poorer family is

18 months

behind peers when they take their GCSEs.

1 - Increase school funding, introduce five-year plans and long-term education priorities

Responsibilities on schools are growing. Funding has been squeezed. The number of pupils continues to rise. But the number of teachers isn’t keeping pace. 

Great teachers and school leaders are the building blocks of a fair education for all. Enough funding is the foundation for all other policy progress. So, to tackle this growing pressure, school funding must increase. With sustainable funding, teacher recruitment, retention and workload can improve.  

Funding must continue to be weighted towards the schools tackling the biggest challenges, which includes increasing the Pupil Premium in line with inflation and uplifting special educational needs and disability funding.  

Stability matters. We’re calling for five-year school funding plans and long-term education priorities so schools can be well managed.  

Increased funding and teacher numbers will allow schools to offer more flexible working, supporting teacher retention.

A deserted school playground.

2 -  Increase teachers’ starting salaries to £30,000 and encourage them to go where the need is greatest

Teachers are the biggest factor in unlocking the potential in all children. But as a country recruiting and retaining enough teachers is a growing challenge.  

The average graduate salary at top employers is £30,000 but a trainee teacher could be earning less than £18,000. Whilst most teachers aren’t motivated by pay, passion alone does not pay the bills. Low starting salaries can put people off joining the profession.  

Teachers’ starting pay should be increased to £30,000, funded through the teachers’ pay grant. A commitment we’re calling on all political parties to adopt.  

Schools in disadvantaged communities struggle most to attract teachers.2 A pay premium should be introduced to incentivise more teachers to work where they could make the greatest difference.

Starting salaries for trainee teachers can be as low as


3 - Support scheme for new headteachers

If we don’t change the trend we’ll soon have a shortage of headteachers. Leading a school is both a privilege and a huge responsibility. We know with more support more people would become headteachers.   

We are calling for a scheme for new headteachers that includes: mentoring from experienced headteachers, access to a network of headteachers and support to learn the functions of any large organisations such as HR, technology and finance.  

Running a successful school is never the job of one individual, but of a full thriving team. Schools need access to support for whole leadership teams so they can succeed together.

A pupil and teacher working in the classroom.

4 - Invest in developing teachers in the schools that need them most 

Qualified doesn’t mean finished or perfect. Effective development keeps teachers improving to best unlock the potential of their pupils. Schools supporting disadvantaged students should have access to fully funded professional development for teachers. This includes professional qualifications to develop expert teachers and support progression to leadership building on the Early Career Framework. For teachers to undertake additional development they need time away from the classroom and schools need to be sufficiently resourced to support this.

Pupils from deprived communities are

3 times

more likely to be excluded from school.

5 - Improve access to mental health support for all school staff

Just like the rest of the population, many teachers face mental health challenges. It’s no secret the demands of the job can put additional strain on wellbeing. The root causes of excessive pressure on teachers must be tackled. But the job will always carry an emotional burden, so additional support for teacher wellbeing should also be made available nationally.  

Across all sectors employers are increasingly offering mental health support or supervision to their staff. Two-thirds of teachers don’t think they have enough guidance about mental health at work.3 We want all school staff to have access to free and confidential expert mental health support, when they need it.

2/3 teachers

don't think they receive enough mental health support at work.

6 - Tackle career stereotypes in primary schools

Research published by Education and Employers and Teach First found that from a young age, children build stereotypes and perceptions about who can and can’t do different jobs.4  

Careers learning is increasingly embedded in secondary schools. We want this extended to day-to-day teaching in primary schools to keep young minds open to their full options later in life. To equip teachers to do this effectively they require training.

Research shows that kids from

6-8 years old

have their aspirations swayed by gender stereotypes.

7 - Challenge employers to give 1% of staff time or profits to support disadvantaged schools 

Not all schools across the country receive support from employers. But we know employers often want to help. Devoting 1% of staff time or profits would help supply school governors or work experience opportunities for young people. Schools and the education system need to be resourced to coordinate help from employers.

A group of trainee teachers at an event.

8 - Fair access to schools

Access to schools isn’t fair. A child from a disadvantaged area is half as likely to go to an outstanding school compared to their wealthier peers.5   

With the right support every school can offer a brilliant education. But we need to make sure there is fair access to the best schools until we get there. We’re calling for school admissions to be managed by an independent authority and for pupils eligible for the pupil premium to gain automatic priority to the school of their choice. 

Fair access is about staying in school as well as getting in. Schools, and the services supporting them, need to be adequately resourced to be inclusive. This means funding to effectively deliver education, health and care plans and child and adolescent mental health services. Exclusion is a necessary last resort, but fairly funded support services would reduce exclusions and off-rolling, helping children facing significant challenges to thrive in school. 

A child from a deprived area is

1/2 as likely

to go to an outstanding school.

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