Recruitment fears worsen as teacher pay gap grows

5th February 2016 at 00:00
Graduates will choose other professions in ‘buoyant’ job market, unions warn

The pay gap between teaching and other graduate jobs has widened by more than a third in a year, increasing fears of a deepening recruitment crisis for schools, TES can reveal.

The worrying statistical picture is found in an independent analysis commissioned by the NASUWT teaching union that demonstrates the impact of the “most buoyant” graduate jobs market in nearly a decade.

The Incomes Data Research (IDR) study shows that the national median starting salary for graduates was £26,500 in 2015 – 19 per cent higher than the £22,244 for new teachers outside London.

In 2014, the gap was just 14 per cent, according to IDR. Unions claim the government’s approach to teachers’ pay will widen the gap further, increasing teacher recruitment issues.

The research also shows that graduates in other careers can expect to earn “significantly greater amounts than teachers” three and five years after startimg (see graphic, opposite).

‘Stark differences’

The news comes after the Department for Education emphasised “the continued need for pay restraint in the profession” – despite acknowledging in evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) in March last year that “the classroom teacher mean salary is lower than that of a graduate professional in all regions”.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “Understandably, graduates are increasingly looking to other higher-paid professions, where not only are they better remunerated [but] their working conditions far surpass those of their teacher colleagues.

“It is very clear that there is a recruitment and retention crisis in the education service. The stark differences in pay for graduates that has been highlighted in our latest research will unfortunately mean that this crisis is only set to worsen.”

The labour market for graduates is now more “buoyant” than at any time since the 2008 financial crisis, according to IDR. It found that the vast majority of graduate recruiters increased their intake last year, and it predicted that there would be a further increase in intake for 2016.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGT) said that as the job market recovered, graduates could be more selective when choosing a career. “Now we are out of the recession, there are more opportunities,” he said.

Teaching unions have warned the STRB that the recruitment crisis would worsen if the government continued to limit teachers’ annual pay increases to an average of 1 per cent.

Recent data from market research firm trendence UK, seen by TES, shows that the number of students intending to work in the public sector has dropped from 18 per cent in 2011 to 10 per cent in 2015.

“It’s fair to say that talk around austerity will make the public sector seem less attractive to graduates when they are looking for jobs,” Mr Isherwood said.

Public pay restraint

Education secretary Nicky Morgan appeared to acknowledge the wider concerns about teacher shortages last month when TES asked about her priorities.

“My top priority this term is making sure that we have got great teachers in front of classrooms and that we have got great schools across the country,” she said. “We continue to focus on making sure that the messages we give out about teaching are really positive so that people sign up to start training to come back to the profession.”

Headteachers’ leaders say that the government’s policy of pay restraint has had a detrimental effect on recruitment as teacher salaries become less competitive.

Leora Cruddas, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, warned: “More employers are struggling to fill vacancies in the economic upturn but, teaching is particularly hard hit because of the pay gap. While the government continues to argue for public pay restraint then it will continue to widen and widen year on year.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, added: “High standards require great teachers – competitive salaries that match other graduate professions must be funded appropriately.”

Professor John Howson, a visiting senior research fellow at the University of Oxford and an expert on the teacher labour market said: “Teachers’ pay is not good and has been declining ever since the last recruitment crisis in 2002. Teachers are feeling the workload pressures, and the government could do more to talk up the profession with more publicity and marketing.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The continual scaremongering about recruitment by unions is not only disingenuous – it’s misleading. Teaching has a lower turnover rate than the economy as a whole.

He added that schools had “greater flexibility” to set pay and “the freedom” to offer teachers a 2 per cent pay rise “where merited”. Graduates joining teaching could also benefit from “generous scholarships and bursaries worth up to £30,000 tax-free in core academic subjects such maths or physics”, he said.


PRP: rising workload and discrimination concerns

Performance-related pay is increasing workload and disproportionately disadvantaging black and part-time teachers, figures published today suggest. The ATL and NUT teaching unions will unite next week to call for PRP to be dropped in light of the findings from their joint research.

The majority of teachers believe that the PRP system has caused them significant extra work (58 per cent) and undermined the positive benefits of appraisal (51 per cent), according to the unions’ survey of more than 10,000 members.

The results suggest that in 2015, just under a third (30 per cent) of black teachers and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of part-time teachers were denied pay progression by their school, compared with 19 per cent of other teachers.

The figures also reveal that a fifth of teachers who were eligible for pay progression in September were still waiting to hear whether they would receive a pay increase three months later.

Next week, the NUT and ATL will meet with the School Teachers’ Review Body in order to set out teachers’ objections to PRP in schools and to call for its removal. They want to restore automatic pay rises for the majority of teachers, which ended in 2013 with the introduction of PRP.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “Teaching is and should be essentially collaborative. PRP is not an appropriate mechanism for this reason but also because it is burdensome for teachers and school leaders.”

The survey also finds that 89 per cent of teachers denied pay progression had no warning, despite government guidance that there should be “no surprises” in pay decisions. Nearly as many (87 per cent) thought that the decision about their pay progression was unfair.

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “PRP corrupts the appraisal process because teachers cannot be honest about what they need as they fear it will be held against them.

“It is a very crude, and often very unjust, measure of your contribution. I hear tales all the time of teachers being given pupil progress levels that they will never be able to achieve.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Great teachers should be recognised and rewarded for their hard work. We have made clear that this system should not create unnecessary workload and it must be applied fairly. There are clear processes in place for any worker who feels that they are being discriminated against.”

Eleanor Busby

‘Don’t bother appealing’

Teachers’ experiences of performance-related pay, as told to the NASUWT teaching union:

“It was made clear that any pay progression would mean an increase in expectations both in terms of workload and management scrutiny. I already work between 75 and 90 hours per week.”

“My headteacher has stated that I did not complete my personal target [for pay progression] – sorting and finishing the pond area.”

“All wages [in my school] have been frozen as of this year.”

“The head delivered the decision to me in person with the threatening advice: ‘Don’t bother appealing, it’s not worth it and won’t be successful.’”

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