George Osborne signalled his intention to push forward with plans to reduce the pay of hundreds of thousands of teachers this week as he ushered in the era of regionalised salaries. In a Budget that was dominated by proposals to cut the tax bill for millions of Britons, the chancellor brought contentious news for a large percentage of the teaching workforce by reiterating his commitment to regional pay deals.
In his Autumn Statement last year, Mr Osborne argued that too often the private sector was being squeezed out by public sector salaries. This week, the chancellor's Budget document stated that the Treasury had already provided evidence to pay review bodies, including the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), on the "economic case for reforming public sector pay to better reflect local labour markets". The STRB is expected to publish a report in July on how it might be implemented.
The move was condemned by education unions, which claim it will be detrimental in terms of attracting the best candidates into the profession. Sue McMahon, NUT divisional secretary in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, said the policy had left her members "livid".
"Speaking to my members, all I can say is they are incensed," Ms McMahon said. "All it will do is create an even bigger NorthSouth divide. It is just demoralising the profession even more."
Most teachers still have a year to go of a two-year pay freeze, and the chancellor has already announced a cap of 1 per cent on all teachers' salaries for a further two years from 2014.
But it is the plans to introduce regional pay deals that have drawn harshest criticism from heads' and teachers' leaders.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said that the change would make it more difficult to hire staff in the most challenging areas.
"The best thing you can spend money on to improve results is better teachers. It is already hard enough to attract teachers to the toughest areas; this will only make it more difficult," Mr Hobby said.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, agreed, adding that there was no evidence that regional pay was necessary.
"The current pay and conditions framework already has lots of flexibility, so I am looking forward to seeing what evidence they have for trying to introduce this."
In last week's article "Hard times continue at beleaguered academy", we reported that the City of London Academy Islington was sponsored by KPMG and the City of London. It is not. The academy is sponsored by the City of London and City University London. KPMG and the City of London co-sponsor the City Academy in Hackney, which is understood to be performing very well.