Majority of teachers face prospect of no pay rise

11th December 2015 at 00:00
teachers face no pay rise possibility
‘It’s like the Wild West,’ says one union, as confusion reigns over salary hikes

The majority of teachers are still waiting to learn if their salaries will rise this year as schools continue to struggle with budget cuts and confusion over pay policy, a major new survey reveals.

Unions said new freedoms for schools to decide details of pay rises had led to a “Wild West” situation, whereby fewer teachers have been told about their pay awards due to inconsistent guidance and budget pressures.

One headteachers’ union said schools might be failing to award pay rises to avoid creating “division” among staff but it also suggested that some of the uncertainty was down to
bureaucratic delays.

The survey, produced by the NASUWT teaching union, shows that a majority of eligible teachers (57 per cent) had not received, or had not had confirmed, a 1 per cent cost-of-living rise. Official guidance says schools must offer this rise to the highest and lowest earners in all teaching pay ranges. For other teachers, the rise is now at the “discretion of the school”.

Meanwhile, 37 per cent of teachers eligible for performance-related pay progression within their pay scales were yet to hear a decision about their salaries. Some 10 per cent of those polled have had it refused.

The survey of more than 7,600 teachers also reveals that only one in 20 of the highest-paid teachers eligible for a special 2 per cent rise – designed to increase staff retention – had actually been granted it so far this year.

The results, shared exclusively with TES, were disclosed as the government reiterated its case for “continued pay restraint” alongside “additional flexibilities for schools and incentives to recognise performance” in evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), which advises ministers on pay.

But unions argue that giving schools even more freedom will lead to a greater number of teachers missing out on pay rises in the current financial climate.

Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, said confusion over how to make awards – with different local authorities giving different sets of instructions – had led to “chaos”.

“Local authorities are constantly making adjustments to their pay policies to do what headteachers want. They say they cannot afford [pay awards for all] because of budgetary issues. It’s like the Wild West out there,” he said.

Both the Association of School and College Leaders union and the small non-striking union Voice said that they believed pay awards had not been granted due to financial pressures. On the 2 per cent pay award for more senior staff, Voice wrote in its submission to the STRB: “It does not appear to be happening, even where members have had excellent performance reviews.”

Many unions believe it is vital to maintain the distinction between pay awards for cost-of-living purposes and those for performance-related pay.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of ASCL, said that the introduction of two different awards – the 2 per cent uplift for top performers and the 1 per cent  rise – had “created confusion” in schools.
“[Last year’s STRB report] was an extremely unhelpful settlement. There are many different ways that schools can interpret it. It was over-complicated by having differential awards for some people. When you create these differentials it undermines the cohesion of the pay system,” he said.

Headteachers’ union NAHT agreed that there had been confusion within the sector, which had been exacerbated by conflicting advice from the Department for Education released at the same time as statutory guidance on teacher pay. But the union suggested that the 2 per cent awards may not have been granted because they could prove divisive in the staffroom, rather than because of squeezed budgets.

Valentine Mulholland, NAHT policy adviser, told TES: “School leaders are committed to valuing and respecting their staff.” She suggested that some teachers may not have received the pay awards yet due to an “administrative delay”, rather than because they had been held back deliberately.

A DfE spokesperson stressed that it had given headteachers greater flexibility to set staff pay and reward their best teachers with a pay rise. “However, this has meant that any pay increases for teachers had to stay within the 1 per cent pay limit,” he said.

‘I’m quitting – I haven’t had a rise for three years’

One secondary school teacher is looking to leave the profession after not receiving a pay rise for more than three years.  

The disillusioned geography teacher, who works in a maintained school in the south of England and wishes to remain anonymous, says: “I can’t teach in a school that doesn’t value the teacher. Pay has a massive impact on this and so does the impossible work-life balance.”

A teacher of more than 11 years, she believes promotions and pay increases have only gone to a select few as the school is “heavily in debt”.

But she adds that performance-related pay progression has played a part. “In reality, it is less effective if you don’t teach exam classes and it is therefore harder to track the performance of teachers,” she tells TES.

One secondary school maths teacher has been lucky enough to receive the pay award this year – but he doesn’t believe the current system does enough to support teachers. “Switching to performance-related pay
has increased stress and failed to incentivise progress,” he said, anonymously. “People are too busy worrying about performance management and results to look for meaningful improvements to actually
help students learn.”

The teacher, who has worked in a maintained school in Yorkshire, adds: “The 1 per cent increase has made no difference to anyone I have spoken to. The annual cost-of-living rise should match the retail price index.”

‘It’s a national scandal’

"The current position on teachers’ pay is, quite frankly, scandalous. As a result of the excessive flexibilities and increased discretion over pay matters given to schools, evidence shows that unfairness and discriminatory practice is rife.

Many teachers no longer have any idea of what their pay entitlements are or what their expectations should be.

Although the 2015-16 pay award should have been made on 1 September, some teachers are still waiting for their employers’ decision and some have received only part of their entitlement. Statutory provisions are being ignored. Relatively few teachers have received the award in full.

The changes to the pay system were never, as the government claimed, about paying good teachers more, they were always about paying everyone less. With teachers’ starting salaries now at least 20 per cent below the salaries of other graduate professions, increasing barriers to pay progression being erected and excessive workload blighting teachers’ lives, is it any wonder that morale is at an all-time low, resignations are at an all-time high and there is a teacher supply crisis?

Under this government, children and young people have lost their basic entitlement to be taught by those who are recognised and rewarded as highly-skilled professionals."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union

Why teachers don’t appeal

Only one in 20 teachers has chosen to appeal their performance-related pay decision this year, the NASUWT survey shows.

Despite 16 per cent of teachers saying they felt they had been treated unfairly in their performance review – only 5 per cent have decided to appeal this year.

When asked why they had chosen not to appeal, teachers gave a number of reasons:

“Appealing would have been seen as a sign of disloyalty.”

“As my headteacher is retiring, I decided to wait until someone more ‘reasonable’ was in charge.”

“It was too much trouble and would ultimately result in a very uncomfortable work situation.”

“The head will not agree to it and I would like to return to work part-time – it is not worth making a fuss as she will be less likely to allow a change to my contract.”

“Teachers in my school on the upper pay range are being harassed and I need to hold on to my job until I can retire.”

“Although I met my targets last year, as a part-time teacher I would not be able to fulfil the requirements on the next level of UPS [Upper Pay Spine] due to my working hours.”

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