Teachers working in sixth-form colleges are to receive a 0.75 per cent pay rise after classroom unions "very reluctantly" backed down and agreed to an offer they had previously dismissed as "unacceptable".
Despite the NUT previously calling on members to support strike action if no better deal was struck, it has now joined the NASUWT and the ATL in accepting the offer from the Sixth-Form Colleges' Forum (SFCF). The pay rise will be backdated to September 2010.
The increase amounts to less than a third of the 2.3 per cent increase awarded to state-school teachers in the current academic year, meaning that in 201011 there is no pay comparability between sixth-form and school teachers.
The offers to both sets of teaching staff had been aligned since 2003.
In a letter to NUT members, general secretary Christine Blower wrote: "The NUT has very reluctantly endorsed a pay increase of 0.75 per cent, backdated to September 2010, after lengthy negotiations.
"Members agreed in the recent consultative ballot that the Government, rather than college employers, should be the target of our campaign to restore college funding and pay comparability with schools."
With the retail price index (RPI) measure of inflation currently standing at 5.3 per cent, the small rise - worth an extra #163;225 on a salary of #163;30,000 - amounts to a real-terms pay cut.
However, the increase is more than three times the 0.2 per cent increase offered to lecturers in the further education sector. In November, ATL head of pay Martin Freedman told The TES that the union had feared a "zero offer", so the increase was "not the worst outcome we could have had".
In January, the national joint council for staff in sixth-form colleges, which is made up of representatives from all three unions, said it had decided to press on with negotiations as the offer did not meet its aspirations for "an increase at least equivalent to that in schools", adding that it represented a "significant" pay cut in real terms.
However, the council has since acknowledged that "the funding situation for sixth-form colleges had become worse since the previous meeting following the disclosure of the loss of entitlement funding".
The pay offer is tied to "a commitment in principle to restoring comparability in pay and conditions with school teachers when financially viable", and further meetings between the SFCF and the unions later this year.
Sue Whitham, who retired as the SFCF's head of secretariat last week, said: "We are just pleased we have managed to achieve a settlement this year.
"It's been a difficult situation all round; difficult for colleges and difficult for the unions. But our negotiating machinery works well and we are pleased that we have reached an agreement with all parties."
5.3% - RPI measure of inflation.