The teacher workforce crisis cannot be tackled without addressing “continuing pay cuts”, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has warned.
In an urgent question on the government’s new teacher recruitment and retention strategy, Labour's shadow education secretary said plans would need to offer more than "warm words".
Addressing schools minister Nick Gibb, she said: "His most recent pay deal means a quarter of a million teachers – the majority, in fact – are facing another real-terms pay cut.
"The teaching workforce crisis cannot be separated from the years of cuts to pay and education budgets... I hope this government is going to start valuing them with more than just warm words."
Her comments come as unions called for a fully-funded 5 per cent pay increase in September 2019 in order to “address the fundamental problems of teacher supply".
The call came in a joint submission to the School Teachers' Review Body, which recommends pay awards to the government, by the Association of School and College Leaders, the NAHT headteachers' union, the NEU teaching union and the Voice teaching union.
Ms Rayner also asked ministers if the £130 million being invested in the new early career framework was new money from the Treasury.
Mr Gibb responded saying he was surprised at her tone, adding that teaching unions had broadly welcomed the new recruitment and retention strategy and plans for an early career framework.
'Toxic culture' in education
He said: "This is a very effective recruitment and retention strategy that has the support of the sector."
Mr Gibb said the £130 million for the new early career framework was new money.
He said the government had been concerned by the high "drop-out rate" of teachers in the early years of their careers. He suggested this was being caused by workload and a lack of support.
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrats' education spokesperson, described the new strategy as long overdue.
She said teachers were leaving because of a “toxic culture created in large part by this government which has reduced children to data points and cut school budgets that have spread teachers' goodwill to as thin as it can get.”
She repeated Lib Dem calls for the abolition of Ofsted, and for a major increase in the amount of CPD available for teachers.
Mr Gibb said that he agreed that data collection had become a burden. He highlighted Ofsted’s commitment not to look at schools' own internal data in its new inspection framework.
He also said that Ofsted’s plans for a new framework had landed well with the sector.
Earlier, Jules White, of the WorthLess school funding campaign, said heads “remain frustrated and very concerned that far from offering a meaningful strategic approach, we continue to see the department offering half-hearted solutions which will not fundamentally address the severe issues at hand”.
Teachers 'massively overstretched'
He said that while efforts to “tie in” colleagues to the profession were welcome, they could fail because the profession is “massively overstretched”, dealing with issues such as mental health and family wellbeing.
He added: “At the root of the recruitment and retention crisis is a failure to provide the funding required to support the capacity and levels of staffing that will allow our profession to remain attractive in a highly competitive labour market.”
Carole Willis, chief executive of the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), said it “fully supports” the measures in the strategy, but questioned whether it would bring about change quick enough.
She said many of the proposals echo changes the NFER had called for, such as “more opportunities for flexible working, reducing workload, creating a healthier and more supportive working environment, and restructuring financial incentives to promote retention, not just a focus on recruitment”.
However, she added: “We would just issue a note of caution – is the pace of implementation proposed fast enough to deliver what is needed as pupil numbers in secondary schools continue to rise, and will sufficient funding be made available for delivery of the proposals outlined?”