Teachers may have to ‘wait till Christmas’ for pay rises

10th June 2016 at 00:00
Bureaucratic delays mean salary increases due to take effect in September may be postponed for ‘at least a term’

Many teachers are expected to have to wait until Christmas and beyond for salary increases that should be in their pay packets this September, TES can reveal.

The hold-up stems from the delayed publication of a crucial School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) report. It was sent to ministers in April but has still not been published.

Union leaders have been told that it will not now be released until after the EU referendum on 23 June. The delay will have knock-on effects that are expected to mean that teacher pay rises will be postponed for a term or more. Unions say that this will lower morale and make the profession even less attractive to new recruits.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT teaching union, called the delays “crazy”. “They won’t get their pay awards in September,” he said. “Schools just won’t have time to put them in place.

“For many younger teachers that will be incredibly difficult. And for a number of teachers, they will already have a lot of their leave booked.”

The publication of the STRB report is only the start of a lengthy process. A formal consultation will follow, lasting up to six weeks. Schools and local authorities then have to analyse any changes and consult on and finalise how to adapt their own pay policies to match.

Last year’s STRB report was published in March 2015, but a NASUWT survey, shared exclusively with TES last year, revealed that thousands of teachers still hadn’t received their pay rises by November.

Unions fear this year’s delay will be even longer, particularly if the review body accepts some of Nicky Morgan’s more complicated suggestions. The education secretary wants to grant schools “additional flexibilities” on pay (see box), but the unions say that this would exacerbate delays.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, believes teachers could have to wait “beyond Christmas” to get pay rises because schools will need enough time to organise governor meetings and review their pay policies. She predicted that teachers at the majority of schools would receive a delayed payment.

“The pay system has become increasingly chaotic,” Ms Keates said. “The only certainty teachers have is the year-on-year cuts to their pay, which is a major contributory factor to the teacher supply crisis.”

Andrew Morris, head of pay and pensions at the NUT, said: “We had reports last year that teachers still didn’t know what was happening to their pay in November and December. It is extremely likely that this problem will be replicated this year and that morale will be affected further.”

The NAHT headteachers’ union and the ATL teaching union also fear that pay rises will be delayed until Christmas. Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: “There were a lot of delays in teachers getting their pay awards last year and the report is even later this year.”

Headteachers have already warned that school budgets risk being “thrown into chaos” because of delays in the announcement of a new funding formula, which will also not take place until after the EU referendum.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “One thing we’ve learnt in recent years is that late notice and uncertainty produce terrible outcomes.”

The school teachers’ pay and conditions document is “long and complex”, he said.

“Rushing changes produces mistakes, conflicts and loopholes. This can have a significant impact on schools’ ability to manage staff and on staff themselves. The last thing we need at a time of recruitment difficulties is uncertainty over pay and conditions.”

Sara Ford, pay specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The government has put a significant burden on schools and governing bodies through this delay. There are lots of other things going on in September and this is another priority for them to fit in at a busy time of year.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The government is currently considering the STRB report. The report and the government’s response will be published in due course.”

The government’s view

The education secretary reiterated the government’s “strong case for continued pay restraint” in her evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body last year.

In Nicky Morgan’s letter to the body relating to the 2016-17 pay award, she asked it to:

Consider what adjustments, if any, should be made to the pay and conditions framework to provide additional flexibilities for schools and incentives to recognise performance. That could include allowing teachers to move down from the upper pay scale to the main pay scale, and the possibility of non-consolidated payments – one-off lump sums on top of salaries.

Consider a salary-advance scheme to cover teachers’ rent deposits.

Ensure that its proposals reflected the government’s policy as set out by the chancellor, George Osborne, in July 2015, that public sector pay rises should be 1 per cent on average and focused on addressing recruitment and retention pressures.

Consider the government’s commitment to increasing autonomy for all headteachers and governing bodies to develop pay arrangements that are suited to the individual circumstances of their schools.

Capital offence

Younger teachers in London will “feel the pinch” if they have to wait until December to receive changes to their pay packets, according to the president of the ATL union.

Kim Knappett, a science teacher at Forest Hill School in London, said: “There are some people for whom every penny counts – such as younger teachers in the capital. It may affect those who have bought a property and have budgeted for that for September.”

Previously, staff at her school have had to wait as late in the year as October before getting pay rises, which caused problems, she said. But this year, the teacher fears that some colleagues will have to wait until Christmas if the flexibilities proposed by ministers need to be consulted on.

Ms Knappett added that in schools that prefer to make changes to their payroll just once a year, teachers could also experience a knock-on delay in receiving any performance-related rises.

“I think most people feel that we have not been paid enough and in the past two years we have not had pay rises that match inflation,” she added. “Living in the capital as a teacher is hard enough without delays to our pay.”

‘High cost of living’

Any delay in pay rises will further damage teacher retention and recruitment, according to Jacques Szemalikowski, headteacher of The Hampstead School, London. He believes that any possible pay solutions proposed to help with teacher shortages – such as a salary advance scheme to cover rent deposits – will come “far too late” to have an impact on those looking to start in September.

“There is a high cost of living in the city, but it will be far too late to do anything about that,” Mr Szemalikowski said. “It will be very hard to turn around recommendations in a short amount of time now.”

He admitted that he will struggle to get any changes to pay in his own school signed off for September because of the delay in the publication of the School Teachers’ Review Body report.

“It just makes the whole national service look even more chaotic,” he said. “People should know in advance what they should expect.”

If the report had come out earlier, it would have made it easier to plan ahead financially and reduce the chance of making mistakes, according to Mr Szemalikowski, who is also chair of the Association of School and College Leaders’ pay and conditions committee.

“You could work it out in terms of the school budget, and then you could plan sensibly and strategically rather than rush things though,” he said. Otherwise “you may not realise the implications of what you are doing”, he added.

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