Teachers are being forced to take second jobs in bars and supermarkets to make ends meet because of a substantial fall in their salaries, a conference has heard.
Jane Peckham, the NASUWT teaching union’s national official for Scotland, also told TESS that applications to a hardship fund for teachers had increased considerably, as they contended with losing tens of thousands of pounds in real-terms earnings since 2010.
Her union’s annual conference called for drastic action to boost pay, including reopening salary negotiations and disbanding the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT), which sets pay levels.
Ms Peckham said it was a recent phenomenon to see full-time teachers boosting their income with low-skilled part-time work, and knew of cases where they had taken jobs in pubs, supermarkets and sales.
Meanwhile, Scottish applicants to a NASUWT hardship fund had increased in the past year (there were around 300 awards totalling £275,000 across the UK), largely “as a direct consequence of teacher pay not keeping up with the price of living”, Ms Peckham said.
Dumfries and Galloway teacher Brian Henderson told last week’s conference that more and more teachers were being forced to take extra jobs because “people are finding it hard to make ends meet”.
NASUWT analysis found that teachers at the top of the main-grade scale have lost up to £26,000 in pay since 2010 as a result of “successive real-terms pay cuts and pay freezes”.
NASUWT Scotland president Richard Bell told the conference: “If teachers continue to be treated in this manner, morale will collapse and so will the education system.”
Perth and Kinross teacher Shaun Cooper said, despite the 2.5 per cent increase over two years agreed last October, colleagues’ pay packets had shrunk this financial year because of an increase in pension payments.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last year ranked Scotland 22nd out of 32 countries for teachers’ salaries, behind Poland and Turkey.
“The education system will go down the pan unless we stand up and say this is wrong,” said Mr Cooper.
He described the SNCT – through which representatives from the Scottish government, local authorities and teachers’ organisations decide pay – as a “dysfunctional body”.
Mr Cooper received overwhelming support after calling for an independent pay-review body to replace it.
Ms Peckham said 2015-17 pay negotiations should be reopened because of the “gross inadequacy” of existing salaries, and added: “The profession and children are ill-served by the current arrangements.”
However, the idea failed to win the support of other unions at an SNCT meeting this week.
Drew Morrice, secretary for the teachers’ side of the body, said he was “amazed” that any union that valued collective bargaining would make such a move.
Teaching organisations and local authorities would have less influence over an independent pay-review body, he said.
He added that it would not have the flexibility to address other areas of concern – such as workload – in times when there was little room for manoeuvre with pay.
Mr Morrice, also an assistant secretary at the EIS teaching union, said that the initial 1.5 per cent rise agreed last October was better than what was being offered to other Scottish and UK government employees. Reopening pay negotiations risked undermining agreements on maintaining teacher numbers and reducing workload, he said.
In response to NASUWT, a Scottish government spokesperson stressed that the current pay deal “was agreed by all sides of the SNCT, including the teachers’ side in October”.
England’s ‘worst excesses’
Scotland risks emulating the “worst excesses” of the Westminster government’s education reforms, NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates told members in Edinburgh last week.
The teacher recruitment and retention crisis in England and Wales, she said, resulted in plummeting morale and rising stress. Ms Keates noted the SNP’s manifesto pledge to give schools responsibilities held by local authorities and to allocate more resources to headteachers.
Additional support needs (ASN) was also a key topic, with delegates backing a call to reduce class sizes in mainstream settings where there are children who require extra support. Others decried reduced support for ASN pupils, a result of the national policy to maintain teacher numbers, one speaker said.
Delegates railed against the bureaucracy of internal assessment and verification of national qualifications, which, one English teacher said, “destroyed” pupils’ enthusiasm.
He quoted one girl who said: “I cry myself to sleep every night because we’re always preparing for some sort of test.”