The government’s continued erosion of teachers’ pay risks exacerbating the recruitment crisis and driving the best teachers out of the profession, unions have said.
In a joint statement to the School Teachers’ Review Body, the majority of English and Welsh unions expressed their opposition to the government’s desire to continue to limit teachers’ annual pay increases to an average of 1 per cent for the next four years. This follows five years of imposed pay restraints.
The unions claim that, as pay and prospects improve in other professions, talented graduates will become increasingly disinclined to enter and remain in teaching. This, they say, will only worsen the existing recruitment crisis.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, pointed out that the numbers applying for initial teacher training are rapidly declining, and that more teachers left the profession last year than in any previous year.
“Unless teachers get a significant pay rise, schools will have to start increasing class sizes, or shutting courses and cutting the subject objects available to pupils,” she said.
In their statement, the unions called for teachers to be given a pay rise, in order to ease the current recruitment and retention crisis.
Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT teaching union, said: “Teachers are already leaving in droves, and new graduates looking elsewhere for a career. It is quite clear that, unless teachers’ salaries reflect the work they do, this is a situation that will only get worse, with disastrous consequences for education and pupils.”
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT heads’ union, agreed. “High standards require great teachers,” he said. “This is an investment in our future, not a short-term cost to the country.”
The unions also claimed that school budgets are at breaking point. Schools now face a real-term cut in funding, they said, and will struggle to cover increases in costs, such as the forthcoming rise in National Insurance payments.
Among the teachers' and school leaders' unions in England and Wales, only the Nasuwt did not sign the statement.
A DfE spokesperson said: "As part of our drive for educational excellence everywhere this Government is working with schools across the country to make sure they have the brilliant teachers they need to make sure every child gets the start in life they deserve.
“Unlike those who are constantly claiming there is a crisis and scaremongering, this Government has worked with the profession to raise the status of teaching and is attracting the best and brightest to a career in the classroom, with the result that record highly-qualified graduates and experienced career changers are now teaching in our schools.
“But we are determined to go further, and recognise that some schools find it harder to recruit the teachers they need, which is why we are expanding the great Teach First and Schools Direct programmes and we are launching the National Teaching Service, which will mean more great teachers in schools in every corner of the country.”