The Department for Education has, it says, always implemented the pay recommendations of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB). But, to the anger and frustration of senior teachers and school leaders, 2018 is the exception to that rule: instead of accepting the across-the-board 3.5 per cent pay rise recommended in the STRB’s 28th annual report, it has given it only to teachers on the unqualified and main pay scale.
For teachers on the upper pay scale, the figure is 2 per cent; for heads, it’s 1.5 per cent. Both are below the current 2.4 per cent rate of inflation.
Valentine Mulholland, head of policy at the NAHT heads’ union, describes the decision not to implement the recommendation in full as “extraordinary”.
Particularly so, she adds, “when the STRB’s recommendation made very clear that they haven’t chosen to differentiate, that they are clear that we can’t rob Peter to pay Paul in this arrangement, and there’s a [recruitment and retention] challenge across the three categories of teachers and leaders”.
Peter Dolton, a professor of economics at the University of Sussex who sat on the STRB between 2009 and 2011, says simply: “The government has independent pay-review bodies for the purpose of making recommendations on pay. It should accept their objective recommendations.”
When Tes asked the DfE for a copy of its full, formal response to the STRB’s report, it provided a single sheet of A4 that simply restates the body’s remit, its recommendation and the DfE’s own proposed pay award, which departs from that of the STRB.
It does not give any justification for the decision to differ from the recommendation of the STRB.
For Mulholland, this failure to explain only makes matters worse for heads facing another year of real-terms pay cuts. “It’s extraordinary to depart from the recommendations and not to give any reasons for departing from that recommendation – of course, we are assuming it’s about affordability, but normally even when it’s about affordability, they would provide at least some other reason, and that has gone down extremely badly with our members,” she says.
What do the current members of the STRB think about the government’s refusal to accept in full its pay recommendations?
The government’s Office of Manpower Economics (OME), which provides the secretariat for the eight public sector review bodies, including the STRB, says serving members and chairs of the bodies “do not undertake media interviews”.
In all probability, we will have to wait until well into 2019 before we know their thoughts.
A spokesperson for the OME says: “Insofar as the review body would offer any response to the government’s recommendations, it would take account of them in its next report and respond if it wishes to do so at that point.”
In the meantime, unions will be exerting pressure on the government. NEU teaching union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney says: “It would be fair to say that we are picking up a lot of anger from upper-spine teachers about the way the DfE has treated them. The government didn’t accept the independent body’s advice in its entirety, and we don’t have a fully funded pay rise. This means the campaign goes on.
“During the consultation period, we, along with the Association of School and College Leaders and the NAHT, will be calling upon [education secretary] Damian Hinds to fully accept the STRB’s recommendations, with full funding from government to match them.”