Insulting pay freeze for teachers ‘a slap in the face’ – school leaders

Education Secretary Gavin William delivered a written ministerial statement on Wednesday.

School stock
School stock

School leaders have described the confirmation of a pay freeze for teachers as completely unacceptable and an insulting “slap in the face”

In a written ministerial statement on Wednesday, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said there will be a pause to headline pay rises for the majority of public sector workforces in 2021-22.

He said the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) has recommended a pay award of £250 for all teachers earning less than £24,000.

Mr Williamson said: “I would like to reiterate that the £250 award should be paid to all eligible teachers, whether located on a published pay point or not, and that the pause on pay will apply to headline pay uplifts only.”

In a report published on Wednesday, the STRB said it was asked last December for its recommendations on increases for those earning less than £24,000 per annum (or part-time equivalent).

The STRB report said: “We recognise the exceptional pressures placed on the economy and on public sector finances by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, we are firmly of the view that a pay pause for teachers of more than one year risks a severe negative impact on the competitive position of the teaching profession, jeopardising efforts to attract and retain the high-quality graduates necessary to deliver improved pupil outcomes.

“The Review Body urges that we be allowed to fully exercise our role in making recommendations on pay uplifts for all teachers and school leaders for 2022/23, based on the evidence, including conditions in the wider economy.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, the largest union for school leaders, said: “School leaders and teachers will be rightly angry that the Government’s pay freeze will deliver yet another a 3-4% real terms pay cut next year, based on the Treasury’s own predictions of inflation.

“The teaching profession has long struggled to recruit and retain school leaders – NAHT’s survey evidence shows that the leadership pipeline is broken at all career stages.

“Too few experienced teachers want to step up to senior leadership positions and even fewer can be persuaded to take on the heavy responsibilities of a head teacher.

“The pandemic is creating even greater recruitment and retention challenges.”

He said those considering leadership roles have seen the pressures created by the Government’s “chaotic” response to the pandemic, and its “late, confusing and contradictory” guidance.

Mr Whiteman added: “This pay cut risks further eroding leadership supply, and risks prompting an exodus of leaders when the pandemic finally lifts. A slap in the face doesn’t begin to describe it.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Following a year in which teachers and leaders have worked flat out on managing a battery of Covid control measures as well as assessing students following the Government’s decision to cancel public exams, the decision to implement a pay freeze is an absolute insult.

“It also risks worsening teacher shortages in our schools. Teacher and leader salaries have already failed to keep pace with inflation over the course of the past decade and the imposition of what is effectively another pay cut undermines retention of existing staff and makes salaries less competitive.”

Mr Barton said the Government must take a more strategic approach with a pay strategy that addresses the pay erosion of the past decade and with sufficient funding in place to make this affordable for schools.

“It also beggars belief that the pay decision for the new academic year has come so late in the summer term when some schools have already broken up for the holidays.

“Not only is this extremely discourteous to schools and teachers but it makes budget planning an exercise in guesswork if confirmation of the pay award is so delayed,” he added.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The Government’s confirmation of its plans to implement a pay freeze for teachers and other public sector employees is completely unacceptable.

“Teachers and other education staff are key workers – all of whom have contributed hugely to the country’s pandemic response.

“All education staff deserve a significant pay increase, not another real-terms pay cut.”

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “A real-terms pay cut for the vast majority of teachers is an insult after the heroic work they have done to keep children safe and learning throughout the pandemic.

“After the work they have done in the last year, teachers and school leaders deserve a government that is on their side, but instead the Conservatives are leaving them worse off and breaking a manifesto promise to raise starting salaries.”

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