The wrong priorities White Paper is a huge threat to teachers’ pay and conditions
The White Paper’s proposals for the total academisation of all schools in England is alarming in the extreme. Amongst other things it will mean the end of national and local pay and conditions for teachers and support staff.
Apart from pensions, everything else will be decided at the level of the academy trust. This includes, but isn’t limited to:
- sick pay
- length of school year, directed hours and school day
- structure of teacher working day
- non-contact/PPA time
- class sizes
- structure of school holidays
- maternity, paternity, adoption pay above statutory minima
- starting salary
- salary structure
- all pay progression rules, including proposals to reduce pay
- chief executive salaries
- probationary arrangements
- teacher qualifications and rules around unqualified people teaching
- redundancy pay (beyond statutory minimum)
- disciplinary processes
- grievance processes
Teachers and support staff will be left at the mercy of negotiations with individual academy chains, their chief executives and boards, with no elected parent governors. These are the same chief executives lambasted by Ofsted’s chief executive Sir Michael Wilshaw for paying themselves too much.
All this will result in separate negotiations with thousands upon thousands of employers and many more disputes.
And all of this at a time when schools are facing profound funding difficulties. This sort of deregulation is always introduced to drive down pay and conditions, not to improve them. It is about getting education on the cheap.
These concerns will matter to all teachers, whether or not they are currently in an academy. The vast majority of academies currently still follow the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document – ‘the blue book’ – but this will no longer be published or updated, and there will be a change of pace as chief executives drive forward change.
Other public servants are not treated like this. Firefighters and police officers don’t have their pay determined at the fire or police station. The junior doctors still have a national contract, as we all know.
Even Tesco doesn’t make its shop managers run their negotiations at shop level! Nor do other high performing education systems internationally treat teachers like this.
Parents will see that this will lead to a decline in educational standards, as the focus for heads and managers moves to negotiations instead of teaching and learning.
Teacher recruitment will get harder because many graduates will not want to enter a profession where there is such little guarantee of pay and conditions. The teacher shortages we see now will be nothing in comparison to what is down the line. A likely consequence would be a significant growth in the number of unqualified teachers.
Across the political spectrum, utter dismay has been expressed at these proposals. The Conservatives did not include them in their election manifesto. This is an undemocratic process that will removes the voice of communities, local government and parents – replacing them with unelected Regional Schools Commissioners and unelected (but very well paid) multi academy trust chief executives.
All this and yet no evidence that academies improve education – and specifically no evidence that the atomising of pay and conditions improves standards.
The scale of this attack on teachers and support staff jobs, pay, terms and conditions, deserves a strong response. When I spoke to the London rally against the ‘Wrong Priorities’ White Paper on March 23, I said it was simply incredible to think this could happen without teachers and support staff striking back.
This week, the NUT has written to the general secretaries of all the TUC-affiliated teacher and support staff unions to seek a coordinated campaign to resist.
We have also put in place plans to move industrial action forward; the NUT will begin organising for a ballot over funding and jobs, pay and non-pay conditions. It won’t be an easy fight but the Government is in some difficulty – divided over Europe, divided over disability payments and divided over the ‘wrong priorities’ White Paper. They can’t even settle the dispute with the junior doctors.
If we want to stop the deregulation and atomisation of all our terms and conditions, we have to make a stand. Join us.
Kevin Courtney is the deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.