A pay deal for future generations?

18th January 2008 at 00:00
On the face of it, teachers have got a good pay deal out of the government. At 2.45 per cent in the first year and 2.3 per cent in the following two years, they are ahead of the police (much to their irritation) and the public sector 2 per cent pay cap. Newly qualified teachers in inner London will get pound;25,000 a year, not to be sniffed at, but still less than a trainee police officer. More senior teachers in outer London - where it is often hard to retain people with growing families because of the cost of housing - will get nearly 4 per cent.

What's more, there is going to be a review next Christmas, which means there may be more cash to come. So the outrage from the unions and threats of balloting for strikes have to be put into context. It is unlikely that many teachers will feel like walking out over these figures. So far so good then.

But there are a couple of points that are not so good in all this. First, some schools - numbers undetermined - will have a real problem meeting this pay claim without making teachers redundant. The guaranteed funding formula for schools, which starts its three-year cycle this April, gives schools just 2.1 per cent, so the gap between this and the pay deal is a simple problem to spot.

Yes, rolls are falling in parts of the system, which will mean some savings, but not everywhere. For some schools, though, financing a 2.45 per cent pay deal is a devastating blow, as Pat Young of Newbridge High School in Coalville makes clear in our report on page 16.

And then there is the problem of the message this pay deal puts out to a generation of potential teachers who may still be in school as pupils - that it might make more sense to look at other careers. Private sector pay deals are much more likely to reflect the inflation index, which includes housing costs (running at 4 per cent), than the consumer price index the Government favours (2.1 per cent).

So, after three years, a public servant might be much less well off than a private sector worker. To attract the brightest and the best to teaching, salaries have to be competitive. The job is a vocation, as most teachers will tell you, so pay isn't everything.

But you can't live on vocation alone.

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