Warning over ‘divisive and inadequate’ teacher pay plan

Unions warn boost to teacher recruitment from Covid-19 will be 'short-lived' unless issues around pay are addressed

Catherine Lough

FE teacher pay: UCU says that colleges must deliver on pay increases for staff

Four teaching unions have written to the education secretary in protest against the government's proposals for teacher pay.

The Association of School and College Leaders, the NEU teaching union, the NAHT school leaders' union and the Voice teaching union have written to Gavin Williamson to criticise the government's "divisive and inadequate" plans for teachers' pay.

The plans would boost the pay of most teachers and leaders by 2.75 per cent, while starting salaries would get a 5.5 per cent uplift, the letter highlights.

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"Feedback from our members underlines the key point we have raised previously, that experienced teachers and leaders are dismayed to see that they will receive only half the increase announced for starting pay," the letter says.

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"We are clear that differentiated pay rises in favour of early career teachers will not promote retention or support the supply line to leadership," it adds.

The unions cite the School Teachers' Review Body's (STRB) 30th report, which identifies “severe and persistent problems with teacher supply”, which are not restricted to teachers starting out in their career, as leaving rates have also increased for teachers in the 35-44 and 45-54 age brackets.

The STRB report also warned that a boost to recruitment and retention from the coronavirus pandemic was likely to be short-lived.

"Our organisations have consistently argued that teaching cannot compete effectively with other graduate employers until the key problems on teacher pay are effectively addressed," the unions warn today.

They say it is clear that pay problems contribute "significantly" to recruitment and retention issues within the profession, citing the STRB's finding that "for the majority of teachers and school leaders, including those in London, there continues to be a significant gap between the earnings of teachers and the levels of pay in other comparable graduate professions".

The letter adds that the STRB's pay recommendations must be viewed in the context of long-term pay cuts and freezes, and warns that the STRB's plans may not significantly restore teacher pay rates, given uncertain levels of inflation in the future.

"All of our organisations are clear that the dismantling of the national teacher pay structure and imposition of PRP [performance-related pay] have created major problems and that the direction of policy on these critical areas must be urgently reversed," it adds.

It says mandatory pay points, regarded as a "minimum entitlement" for teachers and leaders, should be introduced as part of a "fair and transparent" national pay structure.

A fair and transparent teacher pay structure

The letter also states that the STRB has "effectively accepted" government-imposed cost constraints, despite its report noting some of the issues around implementing smaller pay increases for more experienced staff members.

"It is not clear if the STRB would have recommended higher increases without such constraints. Restricting the STRB in this way means that an objective assessment of what is required to pay teachers appropriately and to solve teacher supply problems is not possible," the letter adds.

The general secretaries of the unions released a joint statement saying that: "Government needs to show it values teachers and school leaders by urgently restoring the value of their pay.

"That means a significantly higher pay increase applied equally to all teachers and school leaders. It also means a properly funded national teacher pay structure offering pay levels competitive with other graduate professions. PRP must be removed and be replaced by career and pay progression to reward the acquisition of skills and experience. 

“The government's policy of cutting back teacher and school leader pay, restricting pay progression and imposing PRP has created the current problems.  An effective solution must involve reversing those policies and investing to make sure we attract and retain the teachers and school leaders we need.” 

The deadline for submissions to the STRB's report is today. 

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want to make teaching attractive to the most talented candidates by recognising the outstanding contribution teachers make to our society. 
“This is why we are introducing the biggest pay rise the profession has seen since 2005, with above-inflation rises to the pay ranges for every single teacher in the country, our first step in reaching a £30,000 starting salary.   
“We are increasing core schools funding by £2.6 billion in 2020-21, rising to a £7.1 billion increase in 2022-23 compared to 2019-20. This is part of our three-year £14.4 billion funding settlement to level up education funding and opportunity across the country.”  


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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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