Coalition dissent may end regional pay plans

But pressure for performance-related wages is still on

Stephen Exley

Unpopular plans to introduce regional pay for teachers could be shelved, the government revealed this week in a surprise admission.

If implemented, the proposals would mean an end to national pay scales, which would see teachers in less prosperous regions paid less than their counterparts in more affluent areas.

The School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) had been asked by the government to research regional pay, a move that came in for fierce criticism from the teaching unions.

While ministers have argued that making public sector pay more "market facing" would help private sector businesses in the regions to attract staff, the unions claimed that it would spark a recruitment crisis for schools in regions with lower pay.

The STRB is still partway through collecting its evidence, but on Monday morning a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "Unless there is strong evidence and a good case for it, things won't change."

The Liberal Democrats strongly oppose the regional pay plans, and several Conservative MPs in areas likely to be adversely affected have also spoken out against them.

The latest development was welcomed by Martin Freedman, head of pay, conditions and pensions at the ATL education union.

But he warned that the development could make the government even more determined to press ahead with their other planned reform, performance-related pay for teachers, in order to assert their authority within the coalition - and reduce the wage bill for schools.

"If they are cutting back on the regional pay angle, my guess is that they will be determined to introduce more of a link between pay and performance," he said.

The STRB will today hear oral evidence on the regional pay plans from the unions and the Department for Education. TES understands that some STRB members have already privately expressed their concerns about the regional pay plans.

The review body is expected to report back to the DfE in late October. Then it will be down to the Treasury to decide whether it will press ahead with its plans, or quietly kick them into the long grass.

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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