Big pay freeze starts here

Two years of salary increases based on current inflation rate. Jon Slater reports

Teachers in England and Wales face what is effectively a two-year pay freeze after the Westminster government announced annual salary increases of 2.5 per cent until 2008. The award is equal to the current headline rate of inflation but well below the 3 per cent average for pay awards across the economy.

Salaries of newly-qualified teachers will increase by almost pound;500 per year from September 2006, while someone at the top of the main pay scale will gain pound;700.

The National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said the award would make the profession less attractive to graduates, and failed to recognise teachers' hard work and commitment. But heads and teachers' union the NASUWT expressed relief that a late intervention by Chancellor Gordon Brown had not led to a lower offer.

Headteachers, who had lobbied for an bigger increase in pay than classroom teachers, were disappointed. The School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), which advises on pay, said there was no evidence that there were immediate vacancy problems, but admitted there may be recruitment and retention problems in the future.

Instead, it called for an independent review of school leaders' role and rewards. An Estyn report published in October (TES Cymru, October 21) reported that workforce reforms to ease the burden on staff had actually increased the pressure on many heads.

The 2.5 per cent increase was proposed by the review body and accepted by the Westminster government. Teachers' pay and conditions have not been devolved to the Welsh Assembly.

The headline pay rise will be on top of any increments teachers get from moving up the pay spine.

The Westminster government expects its preferred measure of inflation to be just 2 per cent during the period covered by the award. It is currently 2.3 per cent.

But its evidence to the STRB admitted that headline inflation, which includes house prices and mortgage costs, would be between 2.5 to 2.75 per cent in 2006-7.

The review body promised to look again at the award if headline inflation goes above 3.25 per cent or below 1.75 per cent for a sustained period.

Steve Sinnott, NUT general secretary, said: "This is a standstill award.

Hard work and commitment are not recognised here."

Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, accused the Government of burying "not very good news" by releasing the award on the same day as the Chancellor's pre-budget report. and lowering teachers' expectations.

John Dunford, Secondary Heads Association general secretary, said:

"Two-and-a-half per cent is as much as we expected."

Chris Keates, the NASUWT general secretary, welcomed the award, describing it as an above-inflation increase which should maintain the gains in teachers' pay secured by the union.

* The Chancellor's pre-budget report this week included an extra pound;28 million for Wales over the next three years, with capital expenditure making up the largest element of it. As TESCymru went to press, Assembly members were debating the Welsh government's final budget for 2006-7.

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