The ATL and NUT teaching unions argued separately and strongly in 2012 that Michael Gove’s “reforms” to teachers’ pay, introducing flexibility which he said would allow the best teachers to be paid more, would lead to most teachers being paid less.
Now in 2017, we are together as the NEU teaching union and the pay survey we publish today provides yet more evidence that we were right.
Very few people in teaching – teachers, leaders or governors – supported the introduction of performance-related pay for teachers. A pay system based on competition isn’t congruent with the team-working which characterises successful schools. Few wanted the end of national pay scales either, or the work involved in setting pay scales and determining annual pay increases locally. And, certainly, nobody wanted this government’s funding policy, which has cut £2.8 billion from schools’ funding per pupil in real terms since 2015.
The consequence of introducing discretion over teachers’ pay at a time of a funding crisis will surprise nobody. This year, one-fifth of teachers eligible to be considered for pay progression and notified of the outcome have been denied it. For more experienced – and more expensive – teachers on the Upper Pay Range, the figure rose to more than one in three. Despite government guidance telling schools that funding should not determine pay decisions – a hopeful piece of guidance, indeed – one in six denied progression were told explicitly that the reason was lack of funding.
Pay progression used to be automatic, recognising teachers’ development in post – and also recognising higher rates of pay progression in other careers. These results tell graduates that while teaching may still be an appealing career – something we must continue to be grateful for – it isn’t a career where they can rely on pay progression.
Equally, if not more worrying, results from our survey relate to the annual cost of living pay increase. This also used to be automatic in the days when national pay scales applied equally in all schools. This year, however, only half of the teachers responding say their school has given them a cost of living pay increase this year, even though inflation stands at its highest level since 2012.
The funding crisis is real. So is the teacher supply crisis. Unfortunately, the former is increasingly fuelling the latter. New graduates have every reason to be uncertain about the pay in teaching and those already in the profession have even more reasons to consider their futures.
The NEU – alongside other teacher and support staff unions – has told the government that teachers and support staff should get at least a 5 per cent pay increase next year. Our school staff are worth it. That will require extra funding to be found. This year, however, schools can and should find the money for pay progression and the annual cost-of-living increase. After almost 10 years of public sector pay restraint, teachers and support staff alike have every right to expect that.
Mary Bousted is joint general secretary of the National Education Union. She tweets @MaryBoustedNEU