Anger as education secretary demands 2% teacher pay rise cap

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

There has been widespread anger in schools after the education secretary called for teachers’ pay rises this September be capped at two per cent.

Damian Hinds made the demand as part of his evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), which is currently considering its recommendations on teacher pay for 2019/20.

Published on Thursday (January 31), Mr Hinds’ 61-page submission argues that a two per cent rise would be “affordable nationally” and should be able to be paid out of existing school budgets.

The demand contrasts starkly to a joint submission from four education unions, which calls upon the STRB to consider an immediate fully funded pay increase of five per cent for all teachers and school leaders.

A statement from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), National Education Union (NEU) and Voice, says the STRB “must not be constrained by the government’s unwillingness to address the funding issue”.

There was anger last year after the Department for Education (DfE) rejected the STRB’s recommendations for the September 2018 pay award – the first time this has happened in 27 years.

In July, the STRB recommended that all pay and allowance ranges for teachers and school leaders should be increased by 3.5 per cent. However, the DfE only gave the main pay range (about 43.5 per cent of the teacher workforce) this rise, with the upper pay scale getting two per cent and leaders 1.5 per cent.

There was further controversy after a DfE grant of £508 million to fund the pay rises only provided enough to cover a proportion of the planned rises, with ministers arguing that schools should have already budgeted for one per cent.

This week’s DfE evidence comes as a survey involving 34,000 teachers and published by the NEU found that around 24,000 of them say they are thinking of leaving the teaching profession due to poor levels of pay or the performance-related pay system. The survey also reveals that 42 per cent of the teachers had not yet been given the cost of living pay increase for September 2018.

Joint general secretary of the NEU, Dr Mary Bousted, said that a two per cent increase would be “derisory” and would create further problems with teacher supply.

She added: “This disgraceful move by the education secretary puts him at even greater odds with the profession he should be defending. The STRB should ignore him.”

Geoff Barton, ASCL general secretary, said that a two per cent increase would be “totally inadequate” and would not be affordable from existing school budgets.

He said: “It is absolutely vital that the pay of teachers and leaders is improved as a matter of urgency at a level which addresses the on-going crisis in recruitment and retention, and better reflects the professionalism, commitment and sheer hard work of the teaching workforce, and this must be fully funded by government.”

The NAHT, meanwhile, pointed out that “affordability should not be part of the STRB’s remit”. General secretary Paul Whiteman added: “It is an independent body and should not have its deliberations influenced in this way before they have even begun. The STRB is charged with arriving at an evidence-based view in order to make recommendations.”

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