Zahawi vows to honour pledge on teachers’ pay

The former education secretary was appointed Chancellor in a reshuffle forced on Boris Johnson by a raft of resignations.

Nadhim Zahawi
Nadhim Zahawi

New Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has said he will honour a pledge made as education secretary to raise teachers’ starting salaries by 9%.

The morning after taking on his new role, he told BBC Breakfast: “My submission to the pay review body was to say we need to get teachers’ starting salaries to £30,000 and that’s where the 9% pay rise – we will deliver on that this year and 7.7% next year, and of course for more senior teachers my submission to the pay review body was 5% over two years.

“We will look across Government, across departments at what the pay review bodies will recommend.”

He added he would be happy to come on the programme again to “share my thinking as to where we land on public sector pay”.

He continued: “If inflation gets out of hand and we allow discipline to slip in any way on pay, public sector or private sector… then we will fuel inflation further and we need to bear down on inflation because that is the greatest risk, especially to the most vulnerable in our society.”

Teacher and pupils in class
Nadhim Zahawi said he will ‘deliver’ his pledge on teachers’ pay made when he was education secretary (PA)

He said he had submitted the plans for a pay raise for teachers as education secretary and that had been a manifesto pledge.

“We will deliver on that pledge, that is a promise I make teachers,” Mr Zahawi said.

He was appointed in the new role following a wave of resignations, including by former chancellor Rishi Sunak, over the Government’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment concerning ex-deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.

Mr Zahawi said his focus is on rebuilding the economy after the pandemic and tackling the “challenge” of “deeply damaging” inflation in 2023.

He said he will also be “bearing down on taxes”, referring to the reduction in national insurance payments introduced for some workers on Wednesday.

Mr Zahawi has been replaced as education secretary by former higher and further education minister Michelle Donelan.

Headteachers’ leaders have expressed concern about the high turnover rate of education secretaries in the past few years.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “While we extend a warm welcome to Michelle Donelan as Education Secretary and wish her well in her new role, we have to express our concern at the high turnover rate of education secretaries.”

Michelle Donelan
Michelle Donelan takes over from Nadhim Zahawi as Education Secretary (PA)

He said Ms Donelan is the sixth person in the role in eight years, and the third during Boris Johnson’s premiership.

Mr Barton said: “Education is a vital public service and a complex sector which requires deep understanding, knowledge and continuity. This constant chopping and changing does not provide stable leadership.”

He said Mr Zahawi had introduced a white paper with “very significant attainment targets and structural changes” to the schools system, while large sections of the accompanying Schools Bill had been withdrawn over concerns that it would mean too much centralised control over academies.

“Michelle Donelan will therefore face a considerable challenge in taking forward these proposals,” he said.

He added the “actual crisis” facing schools is the problem of teacher shortages after decades of falling pay.

“It is a crisis compounded by soaring energy costs which are putting intense strain on budgets that simply cannot withstand any more pressure,” Mr Barton said. “These are real and present dangers to the education system that will require urgent resolution.”

Mr Barton said the pay award “must be fully funded by the Government so that schools are able to afford the additional costs”.

He said schools’ “budgets simply cannot withstand any further strain at a time when they are also being hit with soaring energy bills. This is what we expect from the Government and from the new Chancellor”.

Former children and families minister Will Quince resigned on Wednesday morning over the scandal in Westminster.

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