Plans to freeze teachers’ pay next year have delivered a “body blow” to a profession working “flat out” during the pandemic, education figures are warning.
The comments follow chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review announcement in the House of Commons this afternoon in which he declared a pay freeze for public sector workers outside the NHS, which also excludes those earning below £24,000.
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Commenting on the spending review, Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The chancellor said he wants stronger public services but has delivered a body blow to staff in our schools and colleges.
“Education workers are key workers who have kept the country going during the pandemic, but pay cuts are their only reward from this government.
"Teachers and support staff are working in schools and colleges without PPE, without social distancing and without adequate cleaning. Teachers are teaching their normal timetable and then preparing remote learning for pupils isolating at home. They are supporting pupils who are anxious and stressed because of the increased challenges Covid is bringing to their families."
The news follows “previous pay freezes and years of below-inflation pay increases, which have eaten into the real value of their pay since 2010”, she added.
Meanwhile, headteachers’ union the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), has criticised the pay freeze for school leaders who have worked “tirelessly and under extraordinary pressure because of the Covid pandemic”.
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “We are deeply disappointed that the government intends to impose a public sector pay freeze on teachers and are hugely concerned that this will damage staff retention.
“We understand the public spending pressures caused by Covid but this decision comes on top of a decade of pay austerity.
“Experienced teachers and school leaders have already seen a real-terms decrease in their pay of 13 per cent over the past 10 years.
“This new pay freeze will result in the further erosion of their pay following a year in which they have worked tirelessly and under extraordinary pressure because of the Covid pandemic.
“The government asks more and more of teachers and leaders, and then effectively cuts their pay. It should not be surprised if staff decide to leave the profession.”
The chancellor reconfirmed the government’s pledge to build 500 new schools over the next 10 years as well an extra £2.2 billion in funding for schools next year.
But Mr Barton said the uplift would be “wiped out” by the huge cost of Covid safety measures and teacher supply cover, “which the government refuses to reimburse”.
He added: “Many schools will be significantly worse off as a result of these additional costs and it is likely that they will have to make further cuts.”
Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said teachers “deserve better” than the pay freeze.
She said it was a “kick in the teeth for dedicated early years workers, teachers, teaching assistants and support staff who’ve been working flat out to educate children during Covid”, adding “they deserve better”.