Headteachers have complained of DfE “incoherence" after it revealed it was expecting schools to fund a 2 per cent cost-of-living pay rise for teachers in the next academic year.
The Department for Education made the announcement in the final item of the weekly bulletin of the ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency) emailed out yesterday that suggests the extra pay will be affordable from schools' existing funding.
It states: "A pay increase for teachers of 2%, in line with forecast inflation, is affordable within the overall funding available to schools for 2019 to 2020, without placing further pressure on school budgets."
But many schools are already struggling to pass on this year's national teacher pay rises, which the government has partly funded.
Headteacher Jules White, of the Worth Less? campaign – which organised a march of around 2,000 headteachers on Downing Street in September in a protest over funding – said the latest DfE announcement showed it was on another planet.
He highlighted research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which shows school budgets have fallen by 8 per cent in real terms since 2010.
“It's as if the DfE resides on Pluto while schools and headteachers live in the real world," Mr White said. "When will the DfE acknowledge that every time they provide some small increase in funding – perhaps through the NFF [National Funding Formula] – then this cannot be immediately taken away by recurring additional costs.
"The recent recommendations by the DfE relating to teacher pay awards 2019-20 underline yet again the incoherence and fundamental limits of the DfE’s strategic work."
As revealed by Tes last month, some schools are already denying teachers this year’s national cost-of-living pay rise – despite being given a £508 million government grant to help fund it over the next two years.
The NASUWT teaching union says some cash-strapped schools are telling teachers they will lose their jobs if schools had to pay them the salary increase, ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 per cent.
A separate survey by the NEU teaching union found that almost one in five teachers had not received this year's cost-of-living pay increase.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), the independent body which makes recommendations on teachers' pay, education secretary Damian Hinds asked for advice on how the 2019/20 pay award could help address recruitment and retention challenges.
Yet in evidence to help the STRB recommendations, he said only a two per cent rise was what was “affordable nationally”.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the cap would fail to address the recruitment and retention crisis and called for "a pay award which restores the real value of teachers’ pay and which is funded by the government."
But he said: "It is unrealistic to expect schools to be able to fund a pay award set at even a meagre 2 per cent because they simply don’t have enough money to afford this extra unfunded cost after suffering significant real-terms cuts.”
This week's ESFA bulletin states: “Schools will be receiving their individual budget allocations for 2019 to 2020 in February or March 2019, and when budget planning, should set aside funding to cover the pay award.”
The DfE has been approached for a comment.