Teachers face lottery over cost of living pay increase

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Photo: iStock

It is feared that, once again, many teachers will not receive a cost of living pay rise in September, despite the government backing proposals for a one per cent uplift across the board.

For teachers in England and Wales, the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) has recommended a one per cent increase to the minimum and maximum levels of pay within all pay ranges and allowances in the national pay framework from September 2015.

The only exception is at the upper end of the main pay scale, where it has proposed a two per cent increase in a bid to tackle recruitment and retention problems.

The main pay range is currently £22,023 to £32,187 (rising to £27,543–£37,119 in inner London).

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has said she intends to accept the STRB's recommendations subject to consultation.

However, education unions have been quick to point out that there is no new money in the pot to fund these rises, meaning it is far from certain that every teacher will benefit. Furthermore, the flexibility for schools to give teachers towards the top of the main pay scale a two per cent rise could also mean others miss out completely.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The key issue here is that the rises promised would be unfunded. In a way, the government can be as generous as it likes because it is not paying for it. Schools will need to find the money for the rise from inside their existing budgets, which means sacrifices elsewhere."

The government backed a similar one per cent rise last year, which was meant to be added to teachers' salaries in September 2014. However, research by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) shows that only 43.9 per cent of teachers received this rise – with women more likely to lose out. A similar survey by the NASUWT found that by December, 51 per cent of their members had not received the rise.

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: "Having broken up national pay for teachers, the government risks unfairness and inequality in decisions about individual teachers' salaries. We must ensure that teachers see (this) award in their pay packets and that it is not just a headline figure ignored by schools when making these decisions."

Her counterpart at the NASUWT, Chris Keates, added: "Thanks to the coalition government's changes to the pay structure, schools can use their pay flexibilities to seek to avoid paying teachers any award at all."

More widely, unions questioned whether the rises would be enough to tackle the increasing recruitment crisis.

In its report to the Department for Education, the STRB itself acknowledged the pressures the sector is facing, warning that recruitment and retention pressures had become "more acute" since last year with "widespread difficulties in recruiting both NQTs and experienced classroom teachers".

It states: "Our analysis of earnings data showed a gap between starting and profession-wide pay for teachers and that for other professional occupations across most of the country. It also showed salary progression is faster for able graduates in other professions in the first three to five years, with the opportunity to reach higher levels of earnings as their careers progress subsequently."

The two per cent rise at the upper end of the main pay scale is in particular aimed at addressing the issue, but unions remain sceptical.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The STRB sent a clear signal that it would have increased teachers' pay by more if the government were willing to fund it. The government's decision to freeze school funding means that even a one per cent pay increase this year will lead to cuts elsewhere in schools – but its decision to allow schools to decide whether teachers get any increase means that many teachers may not even get one per cent.

"The government has to reconsider its policy of cutting funding to schools. Schools need more funding and teachers' pay needs to rise. Otherwise, we simply won't have enough teachers to cope with growing pupil numbers."

Meanwhile, school leaders will not be seeing any uplift to the upper end of the leadership group or headteacher pay ranges, with the lower limit to rise by one per cent.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Governing bodies are having enormous difficulty in recruiting school leaders into leadership positions and the recommended pay award will not help."

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