Lurking beneath the positive-sounding headlines in last week’s Department for Education teacher pay proposals lies a sobering reality.
On the surface, a 6.7 per cent rise in the starting salary to £26,000 from next year looks appealing. And even better: this will rise to £30,000 by 2022.But by the DfE’s own admission, there’s a good reason: 9,000 more teachers are needed by 2025 to cope with an increase of 15 per cent in the number of pupils in secondary schools.
Williamson: Teacher pay will be 'levelled up'
At the same time, there’s a projected decrease of 8 per cent in the number of 21-year olds between 2019 and 2023, which means the pool of university graduates is already shrinking, and there’s even greater competition from other professions to recruit new talent.
Time will tell if this will stop the “haemorrhaging” – to borrow a word from the Association of School and College Leaders – of teachers from a profession already under the cosh from accountability and workload.
But how will the higher starting salary affect pay for teachers’ pay further up the ranges?
Again, proposed increases in those salaries look favourable on the surface.
The new pay structure the DfE is suggesting would mean, for example, that teachers on M2, M3, and M4 pay points would get 5.8, 4.8 and 4.1 per cent pay rises respectively. However, the situation is less rosy for the M6 and the whole of the upper pay points – which would see an uplift of just 2.5 per cent.
And the picture darkens further when you consider that the majority of these pay points are only “advisory” and that, under today’s deregulated performance pay system, schools will be under no obligation to use them.
Then consider the huge financial pressure that so many schools are under. Could the expense of the new higher starting salary – which they will have to pay – end up forcing them to overlook pay rises for more experienced teachers?
Could the situation emerge where an NQT is on only slightly less (or even more) than a teacher with two or three years’ experience?
Education secretary Gavin Williamson told Tes in September this would not happen “because we’re levelling up the money that teachers will be paid”.