Unions warn rise will not ease shortages

Warwick Mansell

UNION leaders this week warned of a missed chance to solve the teacher shortage after ministers announced a 3.5 per cent pay rise.

The increase was accompanied by a restructuring of the lower pay spine which allows the threshold to be reached in five, instead of seven, years.

The settlement for England and Wales, following recommendations from the School Teachers' Review Body, sees teachers' starting salaries increasing from pound;17,001 to pound;17,628.

Teachers would reach the new threshold - up pound;903 to pound;25,746 - within five years. The maximum pay for a classroom teacher increases from pound;31,128 to pound;32,250.

Headteachers will for the first time be able to progress two points up the pay spine in a year, and the top pay for heads of the largest schools rises by almost pound;7,000 to pound;85,704.

The rises will come into force from April.

The spine changes in September will mean many teachers below scale point 8 will receive larger increments. The 17,000 teachers currently on scale point 7 will see their salaries go from pound;22,035 now to pound;25,746 from September: a rise of 17 per cent.

The deal includes pound;33 a year for General Teaching Council subscriptions, which are currently set at pound;23 in England and pound;24 in Wales.

Although greater than the headline inflation figure of 0.7 per cent, the rise means teachers' salaries are not keeping pace with average earnings, which increased by 3.7 per cent in the year to November. Nurses and doctors also got a slightly better deal of 3.6 per cent. But ministers point out that overall spending on teachers' pay has increased by 5 per cent.

The Government has clearly prioritised tackling the problem of young teachers leaving the profession. It rejected a review body recommendation to provide more cash for the upper pay spine, which unions warn is so underfunded that thousands of experienced teachers will not be able to progress beyond the threshold from September.

Ministers are also set to make changes to teachers' contracts and to bring in more support staff to try to reduce workloads.

But there was fresh evidence this week of the difficulties they face over retention. A survey of more than 6,000 schools found that the number of teachers quitting has more than doubled since 1997.

In addition, it emerged that a pound;2,000 bonus to attract former practitioners back to the classroom, promoted by a pound;400,000 advertising campaign, has only been taken up by 37 teachers over the past nine months. Meanwhile, applications for the Fast Track scheme have also slumped by a third this year to 906.

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

"The Government's recommendations provide the first signs of its recognition of the problem of teacher recruitment and retention, but they do not solve the problem."

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Overall the package keeps our heads above water, but it is rather modest."

Education Secretary Estelle Morris said the deal meant the salary of a good experienced teacher had increased by 30 per cent since 1997.

Pay deal, 6 - 8

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Warwick Mansell

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