Teachers' pay cut by 12% in England, but rises in other advanced countries

OECD says teachers in advanced countries have seen average pay rise of 6 per cent and warns that low pay is a 'key obstacle' to attracting young people into teaching

Helen Ward

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Teachers in England have seen their salaries cut in real terms by 12 per cent over 10 years’ while, on average, their colleagues in other developed countries have seen wages rise, an international comparison report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has revealed.

Low pay is a “key obstacle” to encouraging people into teaching, the OECD said in its Education at a Glance 2017 report.

It said that teaching is “increasingly unattractive” to younger people, warning: “Teachers’ salaries are low compared to other similarly educated full-time workers. It is a key obstacle for attracting young people into teaching.”

The organisation, which also produces the Pisa rankings, said that in contrast to the general trend across OECD countries, teachers’ salaries in England were worth less in real terms in 2015 than they were in 2005.

For a teacher with typical qualifications and 15 years’ experience, and accounting for inflation, salaries were worth 12 per cent less in 2015 than in 2005 in England and six per cent less in Scotland, the report says.

But during this time, on average primary and secondary teachers in OECD countries have seen salaries rise in real terms by six per cent. More than half of these advanced countries with comparable data showed an increase in their salaries in real terms.

'Damaging effect'

Fred Van Leeuwen, general secretary of Education International, an organisation representing teaching unions, said: “The damaging effect on teacher supply and morale of enforced pay freezes and cuts remains shockingly evident. As the OECD makes clear, low teachers’ pay is damaging the prospects of future generations by discouraging young people from entering the profession."

The OECD report comes as the public spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, said today that schools were finding it “increasingly difficult” to fill posts with the quality of teachers they needed.

Malcolm Trobe, Association of School and College Leaders director of public affairs, said: "It is quite clear that the OECD's evidence fully supports the case we've been making that teachers' pay, compared to other similar professions, is significantly lower."

And Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said it "cannot be right" that teachers are earning less in real terms than a decade ago. He added: "A national strategy is needed to address this and we need an end to the public sector pay cap. This must be fully funded by the government, not over stretched school budgets."

Earlier this year, the government confirmed that teachers will receive an overall 1 per cent pay rise in September

But unions meeting at the TUC Congress in Brighton this week have said they will be discussing co-ordinated action to end the 1 per cent cap on public sector pay.

The DfE has been contacted for comment.

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