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Unions unite over teachers' pay rise

The six teacher unions are gearing up for a show of strength over pay, with an unprecedented joint demand for a substantial pay rise for school staff.

The joint submission of all the head and teacher unions to the pay review body limits itself to arguments concerning recruitment and retention. They will turn to pay in their response to the Government's forthcoming Green Paper on the modernisation of the profession.

But union officers say they hope the new-found unity will lead to a united front on the proposed changes to teachers' pay and conditions.

This week at the Trades Union Congress annual conference, a debate on public-sector pay put down a marker for the Government. Nigel de Gruchy, leader of the NASUWT, the second largest teaching union,warned the Prime Minister and Chancellor that graduates would vote with their feet and not become teachers.

Mr de Gruchy castigated the Government for phasing in last year's pay award. The recommended 3.8 per cent was worth only 2.6 per cent, despite Tony Vineall, the review body's chairman, making it explicit he wanted it paid in full.

Mr de Gruchy said: "The Government saved just over Pounds 100 million. In the same week, Britain paid #163;1 billion to the International Monetary Fund to pour down the dark holes of Russian gangster capitalism and the murky waters of Asian banking systems."

He said the teacher unions' positive attitude to the Green Paper could be undermined if the next pay settlement is not satisfactory.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"The joint submission shows the unions can put aside their sectional interests in the interests of the profession."

The unions have not named their price. "It's not our job to put up a high figure - although we deserve it - only to have it ridiculed," said one union leader.

"We hope our evidence will show how serious the situation is and, if we are talking in market terms, the Government will realise what it needs to do to attract good candidates to carry out its standards agenda."

The teachers' employers have already called for pay restraint because of pressures on local government finance.

The unions' submission reports a fall of 7.4 per cent in applications for PGCE courses and notes the demand for other teacher-training courses has sharply declined. Technology, maths and modern languages remain shortage subjects, despite the fact that they attract bursaries.

The report quotes Glamorgan University's Headship? No Thanks!, by Chris James and Denis Whiting, which found workload and stress is putting off potential headteachers.

In a separate submission, the National Association of Head Teachers has stressed the difficulties schools have appointing heads and said a 17 per cent pay rise would be needed to bring heads in line with comparable management posts.

The report said: "Teachers have not seen any significant benefit from the improving economy. The review body must recommend salary increases to address this situation before irreversible damage is done to the teaching profession and, by extension, the quality of the educational service."

The teachers' pay review body will publish its recommendations early next year.

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