Education unions have warned that teaching must not become like "football’s transfer market" after it emerged an academy chain will award staff a 1.5 per cent pay rise in a move designed to attract the best teachers.
United Learning, which runs 25 academies across England, has offered the increase to all of its 3,000 teachers. The chain said it will also pay newly qualified teachers five per cent more than the current starting salary.
Chancellor George Osborne has ordered pay rises of no more than one per cent for public sector employees, but academies are allowed to pay what they want. All schools in England will soon get this freedom.
Martin Freedman, head of pay at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said he was pleased teachers would receive more pay than the chancellor’s “unacceptably low” limit, but warned: “We must not let teaching become a transfer market like the Premier League.
"All schools deserve great teachers and therefore all schools should reward them properly.”
And Deborah Lawson, general secretary of education union Voice, agreed the move could put the "squeeze" on other academies and schools that could not afford to match the offer. But she added that she hopes it would put pressure on the government to "think again" about its own pay offer to teachers.
"It is a shame it has taken one of the academy groups to lead the way on teachers' pay," she said. "We hope it is sustainable for them and that other academies can afford to follow suit. It is a step in the right direction."
Jon Coles, chief executive of United Learning, told The Independent over the weekend that he did not agree with the chancellor’s pay cap.
“Part of our job is to make sure there is good value for public money; we believe we need to attract great teachers and the only way to do that is to make sure we offer an attractive package for teachers to come to our schools.”
Mr Coles said the chain was using the freedoms given to academies, and said the move would not affect its overall budget.
The lowest-paid non-teaching staff will also receive bigger pay increases and the chain will increase employer contributions in its pension scheme.