Pay dispute: Offer branded 'insulting' and 'out of step'

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

The pay offer being considered by the National Education Union (NEU) and other education unions has been labelled “insulting” and “out of step” with the rest of the UK.

After days of intensive talks in the teacher pay dispute, the Department for Education (DfE) has offered a 4.5% average pay rise from September 2023 as well as a £1,000 one-off cash payment this year.

The one-off payment to all teachers and leaders for 2022/23 is equivalent, the DfE says, to an additional 2.4% on top of the 5.4% average pay award teachers received in September 2022.

Meanwhile, the offered 4.5% average pay award for 2023/24 would be, the DfE says, equivalent to a rise of at least £1,880, (4.3%) for experienced teachers and leaders, and £2,000 (7.1%) for new teachers (excluding London).

The offer also includes “the removal of the statutory requirement for schools to use performance-related pay” and a number of non-pay related items (see below).

The offer has been made to the NEU, NASUWT, Association of School and College Leaders, and National Association of Head Teachers.

The DfE claims that the additional money being offered would be fully funded, although the NEU disputes this with its own analysis suggesting that up to 58% of schools would have to make cuts to afford it. The NAHT has said that schools would have to fund up to 4% of the 4.5% average increase.

If the offer is not accepted, the DfE has said it will revert to the STRB process for the September 2023 pay award and that the offer of a £1,000 payment would be withdrawn.

Earlier this year, the DfE presented proposals to the STRB for a 3.5% average pay rise from September 2023, saying this would be affordable from existing school budgets. The STRB is currently considering evidence ahead of making its recommendations on the 2023/24 pay award.

In Scotland, teachers have accepted a deal that will see a 14.6% increase in pay for most teachers by January 2024, including a back dated 7% increase for 2022/23. In Wales, teachers have accepted an additional 3% for 2022/23 and a rise of 5% from September 2023.

The NEU has said it will put the DfE’s offer to its members with a recommendation that it is rejected. The ballot opened on March 25 and closes on April 2. It says that with inflation projected to be 8.1%, the offer still equates to “another 3.8% real-terms pay cut”.

The NAHT is also asking its members whether to accept or reject the offer and whether, if it is rejected, they would be prepared to vote in favour of industrial action. A statement from the union said that if the offer is rejected then “industrial action … will be necessary”.

The NASUWT and ASCL are seeking the views of their membership, too, as to whether to accept or reject the offer.

The government has also made a series of non-pay related offers, including:

  • Requiring Ofsted to provide greater clarity on when schools should expect their next inspection.
  • Requiring Ofsted to review the process by which schools make complaints regarding inspections.
  • Reinserting into the School teachers’ pay and conditions document a revised list of 21 tasks which do not call for the exercise of teachers’ or leaders’ professional judgement.
  • Aligning the STRB process with the school budget cycle to make it easier for schools to plan.
  • Creating a workload taskforce with a target to reduce by five hours the average working hours for both teachers and leaders.

In a statement, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU said: “This is an insulting offer from a Government which simply does not value teachers.

“This offer is less than teachers in Scotland and Wales have been offered. It does nothing to address the long-term decline in teacher pay and therefore does nothing to solve the problems in teacher recruitment and retention.

“Not only is the offer on pay entirely out of step with the rest of the UK, it is also not fully funded. It is now crystal clear that we have ane secretary and a government that is ignoring the crisis in our schools and colleges.

“The NEU is determined that this does not stop here and following the results of the ballot on the current pay offer we will be considering our next steps.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “Having consulted with our national executive committee members, we do not believe that this offer addresses the pay erosion the teaching profession has seen for more than a decade. Nor does it address the crushing weight of unreasonable accountability or workload.

“Creating a situation where school leaders must make cuts to afford a pay deal that the government says is designed to make teaching a more attractive profession would be perverse. We will be asking members to confirm or correct our early analysis that this pay offer cannot be afforded from existing school budgets.

“This offer takes us to a crossroads. NAHT is putting this offer to its members to consider because despite the obvious crisis in education, as well as all the campaigning on this issue, the offer is apparently the limit of the government’s ambition. It is the best that the government is prepared to make. If members reject the offer, it is clear that industrial action by NAHT members will be necessary.”

On March 27, the NASUWT published a full overview of the DfE’s offer, stating: “The NASUWT is not recommending acceptance of the Government’s offer. The offer falls short of what the Union has demanded from the Government both for pay restoration and on non-pay improvements. Nevertheless, we believe that it is right to hear what our members think about the offer as it stands.”

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