Union warns of ‘exodus’ of school leaders over pay

Headteachers say pay freeze is a ‘slap in the face’ and will weaken school leadership pipeline

Catherine Lough

Union threat of industrial action over teacher pay in Scotland

School leaders have said the 2021-22 pay freeze feels like a “slap in the face” and will lead to more headteachers leaving the profession.

The announcement of the pay freeze was made by chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Spending Review last November and confirmed in July 2021 by education secretary Gavin Williamson.

Now, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union has said that the pay freeze risks an “exodus” of school leaders.

His comments come as the deadline closes for responses to a consultation by the School Teachers’ Review Body, the independent body which advises the government on teacher pay.

Under the changes recommended by the STRB, in line with the limited remit it was given by government, there will be a pay award of £250 for teachers earning less than £24,000, or the recommended equivalent value for teachers in the London pay areas.

Mr Whiteman said: “This pay cut risks further eroding leadership supply and risks prompting an exodus of leaders when the pandemic finally lifts.”


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He added that the cut felt like a “slap in the face”.

An analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies has shown that the freeze amounted to a fall in real-terms pay for experienced teachers of around 8 per cent compared with 15 years ago.

Mr Whiteman said today: “School leaders and teachers will be rightly angry that the government’s pay freeze will deliver yet another real-terms pay cut next year, based on the Treasury’s own predictions of inflation, and given how national insurance, energy costs and retail prices are rising across the economy, a slap in the face doesn’t begin to describe it.

“The teaching profession has long struggled to recruit and retain school leaders – NAHT’s survey evidence shows that the leadership pipeline is broken at all career stages.

“Too few experienced teachers want to step up to senior leadership positions and even fewer can be persuaded to take on the heavy responsibilities of a headteacher.”

Previously, the STRB urged the government not to freeze teachers’ salaries for another year, warning it could “jeopardise efforts” to attract people to the profession.

Mr Whiteman said: “Government has repeatedly constrained the review body’s work – this must end. The STRB must be able to do its work, free from government interference.

“The STRB understands the teaching workforce supply issues and, once again this year, asked government to allow it to review the pay structure for teachers and leaders, but was denied.

“We urgently need government to take the STRB’s warnings seriously and to act on them, to support the retention of experienced teachers and leaders, and to resolve the leadership supply crisis.”

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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