The teacher recruitment “crisis” will be exacerbated by a government proposal to limit teachers’ pay rises to 1 per cent, heads warned today.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) says the profession has already suffered a real-terms pay cut of about 15 per cent in the past five years, in evidence submitted to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), which makes recommendations to the government on teachers’ pay.
The heads’ union says it “strongly opposes” the government’s proposed limit because it would “hamper recruitment” and worsen a teacher shortage that was already “one of the most significant issues affecting schools and their communities”.
The warning came as the Department for Education re-iterated its “strong case for continued pay restraint” in evidence to the STRB ahead of the review body’s recommendations for teacher pay in 2016-17. The government argues that any pay deal should be affordable within schools’ existing budgets (see details below).
In July chancellor George Osborne announced that pay rises across the public sector in 2016-17 should be 1 per cent on average.
And in October education secretary Nicky Morgan told the STRB that it should “ensure that [its] proposals reflect” this policy for teachers’ pay next year.
But the ASCL evidence to the review body, published today, said it should not be “fettered” by this government restriction and should “press the Department for Education for fully funded pay rises above the proposed one per cent”.
“They [the STRB] cannot be fettered by an arbitrary amount,” ASCL argues. “Rather they should review all the evidence and make a recommendation based upon that.”
“The current [teacher recruitment] crisis is at all levels: senior leadership; regional and by subject,” it said. “Unless action is taken immediately, including a universal, fully funded pay uplift, it is predicted to get worse during the lifetime of this parliament.”
It adds: “The shortage of teachers is having serious consequences on young people as schools are forced to find solutions such as reducing the range of courses they offer, using teachers to cover subjects in which they are not specialists, and spending a large proportion of their budgets on recruitment costs.
“ASCL urges the STRB to press the DfE to fully fund pay rises so that the government meets the additional costs rather than again expecting them to be met from existing school budgets which are already under huge pressure because of unfunded increases to employers’ contributions to teacher pensions and National Insurance costs.”
The Department for Education’s case for pay restraint:
Government debt is high
“Public sector net debt stands at its highest share of GDP since the late 1960s and the deficit remains among the highest in advanced economies… This reinforces the case for stability in the government’s long-term economic plan.”
Inflation is low
“The OBR forecasts inflation of 0.1% in 2015 and 1.1% in 2016”
Schools will have to fund the pay rise themselves – and costs are rising
“Without any pay award, the teacher pay bill is projected to increase by approximately £565 million to £24.8 billion in 2016/17. This is mainly due to increased employer National Insurance contributions and a projected increase in the workforce size…The costs of the 2016 pay award will need to be met from within school budgets. This makes affordability a key consideration.”
There is no “crisis” in teacher recruitment…
“While teacher recruitment will become increasingly challenging as the economy strengthens, the teacher labour market remains healthy and teaching continues to be an attractive profession. Teachers’ salaries are still competitive.”
…And the government is doing more to recruit teachers
“We are creating a National Teaching Service (NTS) so that by 2020 there will be 1,500 high-performing teachers and middle leaders in underperforming schools in areas of the country that struggle to attract, recruit and retain high quality teachers”
Schools can use new flexibilities to raise pay for the most-needed teachers
“The fundamental reforms to teachers’ pay that have been introduced over the last three years following the STRB’s recommendations have given greater autonomy to schools to decide how to reward their staff… This increased flexibility helps schools to attract and retain the best teachers and to target any school-level recruitment and retention problems they may have”