Inflation-only pay rises on the table

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
Three years of minimal salary increases proposed by Westminster. William Stewart and Karen Thornton report

Teachers' pay will remain tied to expected inflation levels for more than three years, if the Government's recommendation is accepted. Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary, has proposed an annual 2 per cent pay rise for most teachers covering September 2006 to August 2008, in a submission to the School Teachers' Review Body.

The award, based on a Bank of England target inflation rate, would give teachers on the first point of the main pay scale a slightly higher rise of 2.25 per cent, to attract more entrants to theprofession.

Pay and conditions for teachers in Wales are determined by the Westminster government. It has justified its recommendation by pointing to the increases many teachers receive through progression up the pay scales.

Its submission says: "We need to guard against a pay settlement that cannot be contained in schools' budgets. There is no strong case for significant increases in teachers' basic pay."

The Assembly government, in its submission to the STRB, has also backed inflation-level pay rises, saying teacher recruitment is not a problem in Wales. It is looking for smaller increases (down from 5 per cent to around 4 per cent) in the local government pay bill over the next two years.

The Welsh submission also warns against linking pay increases directly to staff performance reviews or to whether teachers have worked in "challenging" schools.

It says both proposals stray into policy areas that are the responsibility of the Welsh Assembly, not Westminster.

And because there are fewer inner-city schools in Wales, Welsh teachers could miss out on pay acceleration linked to working in such challenging areas.

The Westminster government's partner teaching unions have been unable to agree the inflation-only pay deal and are making separate written submissions. But as members of the Rewards and Incentives Group (RIG) with the employers and Government, all four have put their names to evidence that forms the basis of Ms Kelly's case.

An inflation-only rise is likely to prove unpopular with a profession where thousands already face pay cuts over the next few years as management allowances are replaced with teaching and learning responsibility payments.

All of the four RIG unions have agreed with the Government and employers that, when seeking to improve teacher recruitment and retention, pay is no longer the key priority.

The joint RIG evidence says that average classroom teacher pay has increased in real terms by 15 per cent since 1997, and conditions of service have improved.

The current basic teachers' pay award was also tied to projected inflation levels and delivered 2.5 per cent rises in April 2004 and April 2005, with the latter to be topped up to 3.25 per cent in September.

The National Union of Teachers has called for a 10 per cent or pound;2,500 rise, whichever is higher. The National Association of Head Teachers, also outside RIG, has asked the STRB to widen the pay gap between classroom teachers and heads, assistant and deputy heads.

It wants pay rises of up to 44 per cent for heads, with the top-of-the- salary range for a large secondary's head increasing from pound;93,297 to Pounds 134,000 by September 2007, and from pound;38,000 to pound;55,000 for a small primary's head.

Anna Brychan, director of NAHT Cymru, said that experienced classroom teachers are earning almost as much as senior management team members on the lower end of the leadership pay spine.

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