Damian Hinds has told senior teachers and school leaders that he decided to hand them a real-terms pay cut so he could concentrate on those who are paid less.
In July, the education secretary announced a 3.5 per cent pay award for teachers on the unqualified and main pay ranges, 2 per cent for those on the upper pay range and 1.5 per cent for those on the leadership pay ranges.
With inflation standing at 2.4 per cent at the time, the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies calculated that 60 per cent of teachers would suffer a real-terms pay cut.
The School Teachers’ Review Body had recommended that all teachers get a 3.5 per cent rise, and heads’ leaders described Mr Hind’s decision to award some teachers less as a “kick in the teeth”.
Asked in an exclusive Tes interview how he would explain to heads why they are receiving a real-terms pay cut, Mr Hinds said: “Look, we all want teachers and leaders in schools to be well rewarded for what they do.
'Public sector pay restraint'
“It is a unique role in society and whenever any of us think about our own education, it’s always about the power of people that makes the difference.
“We have had a period of public sector pay restraint. We have just lifted the 1 per cent pay cap. I think that was the right thing to do, but we still have had very significant fiscal constraints.
“I was very clear that we needed to be able to fund any pay award, which we are doing with the money that will go to schools in October, and with the wider financial constraints that we had, we determined – I determined – that we should focus on those teachers towards the lower end of the overall pay distribution.”
The DfE has described the pay award as “fully funded”, but has said schools will have to fund the first 1 per cent from their existing budgets.
There has been growing anger about the pay award over the summer, with members of the NEU teaching union executive pushing for industrial action.
Asked if he still believed it was right to give senior teachers and leaders a below-inflation pay rise, Mr Hinds said: “Within the financial constraints that we had, and we did have financial constraints, and you saw that not just in the Department for Education but across the government departments in terms of having to have some continued restraint on pay, within those constraints I thought it was most important to focus more of the money on those in the lower half of the pay distribution.”
This is an edited version of an article in the 31 August edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. This week's Tes magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here.