Every day hundreds of older teachers, "pissed off" by their pay deal, are calling for advice on leaving the profession, Tes has learned
The NEU, Britain’s largest teaching union, says it has been inundated with the calls from experienced staff in the 50-plus age bracket, fed up about their latest salary increase.
The new deal awarded them a percentage pay rise – only half of the rise received by new teachers. It has already been described by heads as "a kick in the teeth".
NEU president Robin Bevan told Tes: “It would be reasonable to say there are several hundred members of the NEU who are serving teachers who are calling the NEU advice line every day looking for advice on how they can prematurely retire.
"They’re asking how do I get out? What do I need to do? How can I activate my pension? It’s predominantly people in the 50-plus age bracket."
Teachers 'dischuffed' by decade of pay cuts
He added: "We have reason to believe that more experienced teachers were pissed off, or dischuffed to use the soft word, that the settlement was as it was…it was a marginally-above inflation pay rise that does not compensate for ten years of increases that are below inflation."
Under this year's pay deal, starting salaries for new teachers increased by 5.5 per cent, but the majority of experienced teachers received half that at 2.75 per cent.
The revelation that it is driving so many out of the profession follows publication of the DfE’s annual report last week which said an “insufficient number of high-quality teachers” was resulting in poor educational outcomes for pupils and posing “a high risk” to the government’s objective that all pupils have access to a high-quality education.
Meanwhile, the DfE is also commissioning a £120,000 piece of research to examine the effects of this year’s pay award on retention, including whether it has had any “unintended impacts” on the retention of more experienced teachers.
'Increase teacher pay to improve retention'
Mr Bevan said: “If you ask whether pay mechanisms have been adequately used to address retention the answer has to be no.
"You cannot look at the pattern of teacher departure over the last 10 years and come to any conclusion other than that the pay model isn’t working to retain high-quality teachers in their posts.
“Pay is not the only factor [for people leaving] but if you don’t peg pay to a good quality graduate alternative then you’re not going to solve your retention crisis.”
The NEU says teachers wishing to leave include heads of departments, pastoral leads, deputy and assistant headteachers, and headteachers who are all looking to “see if they can make their pensions work”.
By contrast, Mr Bevan said there was a process of “artificial retention” regarding younger teachers unable to activate pensions, who were staying in the profession because “the job market had collapsed” under the Covid pandemic.
Teachers working out if they can afford to leave
He added: “The people who are lining up to leave are those who can make their pension work for them and possible combine with a bit of supply teaching and a bit of tutoring.
"It’s not because they’ve got another lucrative career in some other line of work. They’re asking: can I make the sums work?”
Mr Bevan said teachers also wished to leave because of increased pressures of teaching during the coronavirus pandemic.
The union had had to expand the capacity of its call centre to cope with the“very significant" increase in demand for advice from members.
There are currently “thousands of calls a day” to the NEU advice line compared to last year there when there were “very much fewer”, Mr Bevan said.
Pressure of teaching has 'multiplied many times over'
“Across the last six, seven, eight months the pressure of teaching and school leadership have been multiplied many times over," he added.
“For a lot of colleagues at the moment, Covid restrictions are eliminating social interaction in the workplace which is a critical way of buoying each other up. If you’ve got that difficult class, or you’re feeling under the weather, it’s human company that is your best lift normally.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have announced the biggest pay rise the teaching profession has seen since 2005, with above-inflation rises to the pay ranges for every single teacher in the country, ahead of introducing a £30,000 starting salary by 2022.
“Teaching remains an attractive and rewarding career with the opportunity to inspire and shape the lives of millions of pupils.
"Our reforms to teacher training, early career support, ongoing professional development and teachers’ pay are key to the government’s plans to raise school standards.”