The DfE is in discussions with the Treasury about options that could avoid schools having to fund a teachers’ pay rise from their own budgets, Tes understands.
It has also emerged that ministers are considering shifting money within the Department to fund an above-inflation teacher pay rise. Axing the flagship £75 million Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund is one suggested solution.
News of the activity at Sanctuary Buildings is being welcomed by heads, who have said it is “essential that pay rises are funded from central government coffers”.
They are anxious to avoid the “chaos” and impossible decisions that would come from schools being expected to find extra pay from already overstretched budgets.
The news also marks a change in the tone from the gloomy predictions for school funding following news of the announcement of the NHS settlement.
However, DfE sources have still not totally ruled out some or all of a teacher pay rise having to come from school budgets.
Tes understands that the DfE remains locked in negotiations with the Treasury about teachers’ pay, with “a lot of different options being touted”, but “nothing agreed until everything is agreed”.
DfE sources would not comment on suggestions that the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund could be sacrificed to help put extra money in teachers’ pockets.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT heads union, welcomed news the school leaders’ worst nightmare could be avoided.
He told Tes: “I hope that with those options still being discussed it demonstrates that the government has heard the message that schools can’t afford to fund a significant pay rise.
“Schools simply can’t afford that. To on the one hand give an impression that a significant pay rise is available and then to not fund it would cause absolute chaos in schools, even worse than the chaos we see now.”
The government is widely expected to give teachers a rise above 1 per cent after it lifted the public sector pay cap, and it is currently considering the recommendations of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) for 2018-19.
Schools minister Nick Gibb has told MPs that the STRB report, and the government’s response, will be published “as soon as possible”.