A claim that teachers do not deserve a big pay hike because they have already seen "generous" salary increases has been labelled "complete nonsense" by education unions.
In a report published today, the Taxpayers' Alliance argues that teachers should not receive a significant rise because their average salary of £38,400 a year is "considerably higher" than the UK average of £28,600.
The pressure group says that "top" teachers can earn more than £67,300 a year, and also claims there has been a "huge increase" in per-pupil funding since 1997.
According to the group, teachers' gross pay increased by 1.6 per cent in 2016-17, but when progression was taken into account this increased to 4.6 per cent in England.
John O'Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: “Whilst we are constantly hearing trade unions calling for more spending, this has largely gone on salary increases. This is completely unfair at a time when public sector workers are already better off, on average, than those in the private sector.
“Teachers, in particular, have seen generous salary increases when moving up through pay bands, and this comes off the back of those taxpayers in the private sector."
Teachers' real-terms pay has fallen
However, education unions hit back at the claims.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is important that the public realises that teachers’ pay has fallen well behind inflation because it has been capped or frozen since 2010 and this has led to salary levels falling in real terms.
"This is part of the reason that we have a teacher recruitment and retention crisis in our schools."
Addressing a separate claim by the alliance that there had been a "huge increase" in school funding, he pointed out that the Institute for Fiscal Studies concluded that schools are facing real-terms cuts of almost 5 per cent over four years to 2019, and that there had been a 15-20 per cent real-terms cut for school sixth forms and further education since 2010.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, also criticised the report.
“Even by the Taxpayers’ Alliance’s standards, this is complete nonsense," she said.
"The independent School Teachers’ Review Body has recognised that the level of pay is adversely affecting teacher recruitment and retention, and average starting and profession-wide salaries are considerably lower in teaching than in other graduate professions."
Dr Bousted said that, since 2010, pay freezes and caps had cut pay by 15 per cent in real terms.
She also objected to the report's criticism of spending on teaching assistants.
In its report, the Taxpayers' Alliance said there was a "great deal of unnecessary spending" by schools, highlighting the £298,599 that schools in England spend, on average, on TAs.
Dr Bousted said: “The Taxpayers’ Alliance dismissal of support staff as an unnecessary cost to schools is not just inaccurate but offensive."
She added: “The real problem is schools simply do not have sufficient funds to run an effective education system.
"The sooner people get their heads out of the sand and accept this, the better.
"To ensure the best outcomes for our children and young people, we need a fully funded education system that can afford to pay its teachers and support staff a decent wage.”