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'We need to know about the teacher pay rise – and fast'

Schools deserve to know if teachers are getting a pay rise in September and who will pay for it, writes Ed Dorrell

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Schools deserve to know if teachers are getting a pay rise in September and who will pay for it, writes Ed Dorrell

There’s a lot of news about this week. Football may be coming home; the miracle of the Thai kids in the cave; the Brexit farce; Donald Trump arriving; Boris Johnson departing.

And if that wasn’t enough, those of us who work in education also had to grapple with the annual bunfight that is Sats Results Day.

As a consequence, it has been relatively easy to forget that we are awaiting a hugely important decision from education ministers – one that could decide the future relationship between schools and this government, however much longer it lasts.

We are waiting to hear what pay rise teachers can expect from September and, more importantly, who is going to pay for it. A great deal rides on this, and yet the decision is now spectacularly late – most maintained schools will break up by the end of next week.

The first part, although not yet official, seems reasonably clear-cut. I understand that the School Teachers' Review Body is likely to recommend to ministers that teachers should receive a good pay rise for the first time in several years (something in the region of 3.5 per cent), and the government is likely to accept it.

Funding a teacher pay rise

It is the second part of the equation that represents the political nightmare for education ministers. If the Treasury refuses to find extra money for the pay hike (which seems increasingly likely, despite splurging the cash on NHS salaries) then funding the rise will fall to either the Department for Education or schools themselves.

I’ve written before about how the DfE is keen to find the cash – even by potentially cutting many other programmes – to avoid the nightmare scenario of passing the cost on to heads. My bet is that they recognise this would be political poison; parents would be outraged by the ensuing cuts, and unions (with parental support) would walk out on strikes.

Budgets in schools are already tight, and such a decision would make things way, way worse. Conservative ministers understand, after the botched election of last year, that education funding cuts play very, very badly with voters.

While it is true that this must be a tricky situation for the politicians, it is no excuse for the delay in making the decision. Heads and school leaders have a right to be able to plan their budgets for 2018-19 (it’s already way too late), and teachers deserve to know what’s going to be in their pay packet.

In short, get on with it.

Ed Dorrell is head of content at Tes

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