Resist any moves to lower pay

26th May 2006 at 01:00
Is this the thin edge of a very thick wedge to be driven between Welsh and English pay? Alan Johnson, the new Education Secretary in England, has certainly scattered the pigeons by putting the possibility of different pay deals for Welsh teachers on the agenda.

The Department for Education and Skills has denied any suggestion that power over pay will be devolved to the Assembly and Jane Davidson, Wales's minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, has not requested such a switch. But Mr Johnson's directive to the School Teachers' Review Body to consider whether all matters of pay should remain the same both sides of Offa's Dyke has rightly alarmed teacher unions here. They fear it is the first move in an attempt to offer separate salary levels for Wales, and regionalise pay.

Ironically, the question may have arisen because Wales's independence on performance management and staff restructuring affects pay. But while devolution of pay has worked well for Scottish teachers, who earn about Pounds 3,000 more than those in Wales and England, the pressure on Welsh salaries under any separate arrangement, whether directed by Westminster or the Assembly, would undoubtedly be downwards.

The surplus of trained teachers as a result of falling pupil numbers, and the relatively high pay of teachers in Wales's low-wage economy, would see to that.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, has warned of a "devastating adverse impact on teachers' and heads' pay". It could fuel a brain drain across the border, leave teachers already living and working there stranded, and dissuade young people from entering the profession. Given that most teachers in Wales are the main breadwinner, the politicians should take note that with schools already struggling with funding, a damaging attack on teacher morale is the last thing they need.

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