TEACHERS should be given extra money to encourage them to work in schools in disadvantaged communities, an academic has suggested.

Professor Chris Chapman, from Glasgow University’s School of Education, said financial sweeteners should be part of a range of incentives to attract school staff to work in poorer areas.

The suggestion comes after the Scottish Government made closing the attainment gap between rich and poor the single most important priority for the education system.

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The number of children from the most deprived areas of Scotland achieving appropriate results in literacy and numeracy in both primary and secondary is up to 20 percentage points lower than that of children from the least deprived areas.

The gap is wider in exam results with just 43 per cent of children in the most deprived areas leaving school with one or more Highers compared to 81 per cent in the most affluent areas.

Writing in The Herald, Mr Chapman, said: “We should develop a range of incentives to attract and retain serving teachers into our more challenging settings.

“Financial incentives have been used in the past and may go some way to addressing the issue.”

However, Mr Chapman, founding director of the university’s Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change, said most teachers working in schools in disadvantaged areas tended to be driven by a strong sense of social justice.

As a result, he believes ensuring the conditions within these schools “nurture the commitment of staff” is even more important than financial incentives.

He said: “These often high-octane environments make demands that are beyond the expected expectations.

“Therefore, we need to ensure that teachers have structured supportive networks that provide space to refresh and reflect on their experiences.

“They could also create possibilities for sabbaticals, study tours and secondments ... to develop policy and guidance to inform wider developments within the system.”

The idea of better support networks for teachers working in difficult surroundings was welcomed by parents and teaching unions.

However, questions were raised over how effective the use of financial incentives would be.

Andrea Bradley, assistant secretary of teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said money would be better spent on providing additional resources for schools.

She said: “We do not support financial incentives for teaching in deprived areas.

“Instead, we believe additional targeted resources, including extra teachers, are the best way to tackle the impact of poverty in the classroom and to ensure schools in areas of deprivation are fully supported.”

The union said it would welcome the prospect of teachers being able to move more freely between different parts of the education system.

Ms Bradley added: “To enable such fluidity, which could be a valuable way of informing policy, teacher numbers must be restored to healthy levels. Fair pay and workload reduction are key to achieving this.”

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said one drawback of “golden hellos” could be that they attract staff motivated by financial gain.

She added: “That may attract staff, but the key is getting teachers to stay and research from America suggests that if you identify and train people to become teachers from the communities involved who are already committed to those areas then that can be a very successful model. In that context the financial support would be welcome.

“There is a retention issue in those more challenging schools and the suggestion that teachers can get time off to improve their skills and become real experts in the field of tackling the impact of deprivation then I think that would be very supportive.”

Last year, a report by the Sutton Trust charity said giving teachers more time out of the classroom could encourage them to teach in challenging schools.

It said more free periods would be an incentive for staff to spend at least part of their career in this type of school. A survey of teachers also backed the idea of cash incentives.