Two-way stretch upsets the unions

14th February 1997 at 00:00
Frances Rafferty opens a six-page analysis of the School Teachers' Review Body's recommendations

For the second year running the Government has decided to phase the teachers' pay award, so that the pay review body's recommended 3.3 per cent rise will be in two parts.

Teachers may feel aggrieved but the local authorities are mightily relieved. Even so, many say they will still find it difficult, given their capping levels, to find the money.

The overall amount may be above inflation, but with the going rate for pay rises more like 4 per cent, there is concern it will be too little to retain and recruit teachers when pupil numbers are rising.

The review body has been criticised for not standing up for teachers. Chris Trinder, chief economist of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said: "This is the weakest of all the public sector review body reports. Teachers are slipping down the pay league. I think it is letting them down and it's not clear that they are getting more money than they would under negotiation."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, says the review body has sidestepped some of the most vital issues. Despite its own survey showing increased workloads, it has not made any recommendations and has not addressed concerns on increasing class sizes.

Even supporters have harsh words. David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The review body knows 3.3 per cent is not enough to recruit, retain and motivate staff, but it came up with a figure that would just about keep it out of trouble and would not be overturned by the Government."

Teachers will receive 2 per cent on April 1, and the rest in December. The pay of a primary head teacher on spine point 10 will go up to Pounds 29,121, when paid in full, a secondary head on point 38 will get Pounds 44,787 and a classroom teacher on point 9 will get Pounds 21,591.

It is the School Teachers' Review Body's sixth report, and the first under Tony Vineall as chairman. The STRB has made few structural changes this year. It has decided to stick with the present pay spines. The unions, in their evidence to Mr Vineall, said they were unhappy with the change last year which introduced half-points to the classroom teachers' pay spine.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said a half-point rise amounted to 10p extra a lesson. The STRB wants to wait until it beds down before making a judgment.

The review body has looked at funding, and sends out strong messages to the Government that the education service has used up virtually all possibilities of efficiency savings. It says: "Some savings should always be possible but it is difficult to envisage how significant further savings can be generated in schools through efficiency gains or productivity improvements."

The STRB notes that schools are improving their productivity in terms of producing better examination results - this, however, does not generate money.

The review body has for several years complained about the "funding fog", the complicated method by which Standard Spending Assessments (the public expenditure allocated to councils by the Government) are passed on down to schools budgets. Mr Vineall is concerned because the present system creates differentials between schools in different areas, so that schools of a similar size can get totally different funding depending upon their local authority.

The report says the review body is persuaded that a national funding formula could be the answer; local authorities point out they put in more than the Government recommends for education. But with only 20 per cent of funding generated locally, the review body believes a national funding formula would be simpler and fairer.

The review body's workload survey shows that teachers are working longer hours. Classroom teachers in primary schools last year were working two hours a week longer than in 1994. Secondary teachers were working more than an hour more a week.

The report says teacher numbers have not increased in line with pupil numbers and notes concern about larger class sizes. A four-union submission to the review body called for national staffing levels and a limit to class sizes, but the review body has rejected this, saying these are matters for local management in schools.

It is concerned about teacher recruitment in the secondary sector, particularly in shortage subjects. There is also concern about filling vacancies for heads and senior staff. "There is evidence that teachers are becoming less motivated to seek promotion and a consideration remains the extra workload associated with more senior posts. Some of the teacher unions also report widespread concern about the adverse long-term effects on the motivation and morale of the proposed pension changes."

The Government has long wished to introduce performance-related pay for teachers. The review body has so far resisted this. Instead, it says it views with interest the Teacher Training Agency's development of expert teachers and subject leaders.


* The Government has agreed a 3.3 per cent rise for all teachers, but has phased it so the value of all spine points and London allowances will be increased by 2 per cent on April 1, and by a further 1.3 per cent on December 1.

* Within one month of the absence of a head, the governing body should consider paying the acting head not less than the minimum of a normal range for the school's size. Acting heads should also be given the same conditions of employment as a full-time head.

* Teachers in charge of Pupil Referral Units should be paid the same as headteachers and be subject to their conditions of employment, unless local circumstances make it inappropriate.

* The Department for Education and Employment Circular must advise on the management of supply cover for absent staff. The unions claim headteachers rely too much on existing staff to cover when outside assistance should be sought.

* Sick leave will be included as part of a period of service for the purpose of awarding experience points, but other absences, other than for holiday periods and maternity leave, should be discretionary.

* There should not be nationally prescribed staffing levels or statutory class sizes.

* The review body would like to see more money (as Grants for Educational Support and Training) for training governors.

* The review body supports a national funding formula for schools.

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