Teachers `struggling to make ends meet'

7th November 2014 at 00:00
Real-terms pay falls by 10%, yet ministers want further restraint

Teachers' pay has fallen by more than 10 per cent in real terms in less than a decade, according to figures released by the government, as ministers continue to call for wage restraint.

The drop is revealed in evidence compiled by the Department for Education in support of education secretary Nicky Morgan's call for average pay rises to be capped at 1 per cent. The median teacher salary was less than pound;37,000 in 2013-14; measured against the same prices, it was more than pound;42,000 in 2004-05.

Ms Morgan recently acknowledged that England's teachers were "struggling under the burden of an unnecessary and unsustainable workload", which she has promised to tackle. But headteachers' leaders told TES that the government's plan to keep average pay rises in 2015-16 below the level of inflation would add to workloads by exacerbating recruitment problems.

The figures, submitted in evidence to the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), are released as teachers face a new performance-related pay regime, which has ended automatic annual rises up the main pay scale. Teachers are also having to pay increased pension contributions, and headteachers said that staff were "struggling to make ends meet".

James Wilson, a maths teacher in Halifax, said: "When you speak to people you went to university with, they have got jobs that pay pound;10,000 more and you are thinking they are probably not working any harder." (See panel, opposite.)

The government's evidence starkly outlines the profession's declining prosperity, indicating that between the peak year of 2004-05 and 2013-14, the median for all teachers' salaries fell by 12 per cent after inflation was taken into account. Teaching unions using different methodologies for their calculations have found an even steeper decline, suggesting that real-terms pay has dropped by up to 15 per cent in the past five years.

The DfE said more pay "restraint" was needed because public sector "deficit and debt remain at unsustainable levels".

But Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, said that keeping pay down would make it more difficult to attract and retain the best graduates. "This is incredibly short-termist, particularly at a time when there is a shortage of teachers, including in maths and physics, and the number of pupils is expected to grow," she added.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, also said that deteriorating pay and conditions were contributing to recruitment problems. "If schools can't recruit people of the right calibre, then for other teachers that is going to add to their workloads," he added. "It is also very clear that many teachers are struggling to make ends meet. Another increase of 1 per cent maximum is unacceptable."

Joint evidence submitted to the STRB by unions representing teachers and headteachers, excluding the NUT, is based on the RPI measure of inflation, rather than the lower CPI indicator used by the government. It concludes that the real value of teachers' pay has dropped by more than 12 per cent since the coalition took power in 2010.

The NUT cites a 15 per cent fall since September 2009. General secretary Christine Blower said: "This government has been no friend to teachers.

"Its policy of limiting public sector pay awards to an average of up to 1 per cent, following two years of pay freezes for teachers, has driven down teacher living standards."

Tighter school budgets since 2011 meant that some schools were struggling to pass on even 1 per cent pay rises, the unions said.

The DfE claimed that rising pension contributions and a projected increase in the number of teachers would result in the teacher pay bill for state-funded schools in England and Wales climbing from pound;23.1 billion to pound;23.8 billion next year even without a pay rise. To support its case for further limiting teacher pay rises, the department supplied evidence showing that the salaries of private sector graduates had fallen faster than teachers.

A DfE spokesperson said: "Teaching has never been more attractive and, thanks to our plan for education, headteachers have the flexibility to reward good performance and pay good teachers more. This means they can attract the best candidates, raise the status of the profession and encourage more people into teaching. We now have more teachers in England's classrooms than ever before - up 9,000 on last year."

A survey from June showed that most teachers supported the policy of performance-related pay, the spokesperson added.

For more on pay and conditions, see pages 16-17

`Raising wages would boost economy'

James Wilson, a maths teacher at North Halifax Grammar School, West Yorkshire, has been in the profession for eight years. In that time he has observed a growing pay gap between his peers and more experienced colleagues.

"I have noticed that teachers a few years ahead of me have been able to get mortgages quicker, because they have been able to save up deposits earlier," he says. "When I was a newly qualified teacher, we were struggling very hard to save for a mortgage and it will be harder for NQTs now.

"My colleague had been teaching for four years when I started. He had bought himself a house in his second year of teaching, whereas we were saving with two incomes until my fifth or sixth year.

"It's not just about the pay you are getting: you're paying extra pension contributions as well and that makes quite a big difference."

Asked what he thought of the government's argument that pay restraint was necessary because of economic austerity, Mr Wilson, who is paid pound;36,869 a year, said: "I don't think the answer is to cut. I think raising wages will boost the economy."

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