Teacher pay constraints 'show breathtaking complacency'

The 'narrow remit' on increasing teacher pay provided by the education secretary is criticised by major union leaders
16th December 2020, 5:26pm
Amy Gibbons


Teacher pay constraints 'show breathtaking complacency'

Coronavirus: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson Has Been Criticised Over His Proposals On Teacher Pay

The constraints on teacher pay in the wake of the Covid crisis demonstrate "breathtaking complacency" by the government, three of the country's biggest education unions have warned.

In a joint statement issued today, the general secretaries of the NEU teaching union, the NAHT school leaders' union and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) heavily criticised the "narrow remit" issued by the education secretary to the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), the independent body that advises on teacher pay.

In a letter to the STRB, dated yesterday, Gavin Williamson justified not giving teachers a pay rise next year because he said it would significantly widen the existing gap between public and private pay.

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Mr Williamson said the pay rise pause would only apply to "headline pay uplifts" and that other payments, such as progression pay and allowances, would continue as before.

Teacher pay freeze 'is a slap in the face'

Mr Williamson said he would "welcome" the views of the STRB on lifting the pay of those earning less than £24,000 a year.

"We propose to continue pay uplifts for these teachers at a value of £250 or the National Living Wage increase, whichever is higher," he said.

The union leaders said the "narrow remit" issued to the STRB demonstrated "breathtaking complacency on the part of the government". 

"Temporary improvements in recruitment and retention driven by the Covid pandemic do not mean that the deep-seated problems in teacher recruitment and retention have been solved," they said. 

"Teachers and leaders have contributed so much to the country's response to Covid, yet the government is effectively using the pandemic to justify further attacks on their pay.

"The government's attempt to constrain the STRB in this way makes a mockery of the review body process. This is the School Teachers' Pay Review Body after all. We need fair pay for teachers and school leaders and an evidence-based approach."

The union leaders said it was "essential" that the STRB looked at "all relevant evidence" when making recommendations.

"This must include the impact on recruitment and retention of previous and future real-terms pay cuts, as well as problems created by performance-related pay and the dismantling of the pay structure," they said. 

They added that the STRB "should be asked to say what it would have recommended but for the pay freeze".

The NASUWT teachers' union has also condemned the government's decision to freeze teacher pay.

Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: "The minister has sought to justify freezing teachers' pay by citing the impact which Covid-19 has had on the economy and jobs.

"The NASUWT does not accept that teachers and other public sector workers, who have served on the frontline throughout this pandemic to maintain the essential services we have all depended on, should be made to pay the price of tackling Covid.

"Seeking to constrain the remit of the STRB by limiting them to only examining pay rises for those earning under £24,000 is an unacceptable attack on the independence of the pay body and on the transparency of the process of determining teachers' pay.

"The minister states that his priority is improving recruitment and retention of teachers and school leaders, but imposing real-terms pay cuts will not encourage new recruits to the profession or support the retention of experienced and dedicated teachers, for whom this pay freeze is a slap in the face."


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