Heads and teachers condemn pay freeze 'kick in teeth'

Government's attempt to use the pandemic to 'justify further attacks on pay' is 'not credible', unions claim

Amy Gibbons

Tes weekly highlights: The teacher pay freeze, SEND support and empathy

Heads and teachers have condemned the government's decision to freeze teacher pay amid "enormous anger" within the profession.

In a joint statement, organisations representing the majority of teachers and school leaders in England have claimed the government is attempting to "use the impact of the pandemic to justify further attacks on pay".

They have united to reject the pay freeze and are calling for a "significant pay increase" and a "fairer pay structure to improve teacher retention".

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The backlash follows confirmation from the Department for Education this morning that it plans to "pause" pay rises for the vast majority of teachers, apart from the small minority earning less than £24,000.

The statement, signed by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the NAHT school leaders' union, the NEU teaching union and Voice Community, says: "The government is out of touch with the profession and its position is not credible.

Teacher pay freeze 'sends a terrible message'

"Its attempts to use the impact of the pandemic to justify further attacks on pay, despite the huge contribution made by teachers and school leaders to the national response to the pandemic, have created enormous anger."

It adds: "Teachers and school leaders are key workers. They deserve to be rewarded and valued, not singled out for attack. A demoralised and undervalued workforce is unlikely to be able to deliver the ongoing support our children and young people need, particularly those who have suffered a detriment due to the disruption caused by the pandemic."

Deborah Lawson, assistant general secretary of Community Union (Voice Section), said the pay freeze was "a kick in the teeth for the nation's dedicated teachers and headteachers".

And Geoff Barton, ASCL general secretary, argued that freezing pay in the wake of the Covid crisis was a "false economy". 

"Not only does it send a terrible message to loyal public servants, but it will also damage staff retention and undermine the government's mantra that education is a national priority," he said.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, added that pay for school leaders should reflect the "demanding and important profession".

"At the moment, it doesn't," he added.

"The government needs to make the case for a decades-long career in teaching, and routinely freezing pay is no way to do that. The recruitment and retention crisis continues unabated and the teaching and leadership supply pipeline is leaking at both ends.

"At present, the government is failing to recruit enough new teachers whilst too many experienced teachers leave prematurely. A pay rise for school staff is long overdue."

And Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: "Teachers and school leaders have suffered a decade of pay cuts in real terms, leading to serious recruitment and retention problems.

"If the government gets its way, yet more pay cuts will be inflicted on the profession. The STRB [School Teachers' Review Body] and government must respond properly to the profession's united opposition to the pay freeze and PRP [performance-related pay."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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