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Teachers Face Another 1% Pay Cap As Austerity Continues

'The teacher recruitment and retention crisis gets worse'.

10/07/2017 18:19 | Updated 10 July 2017
PA Wire/PA Images

Teachers’ pay will remain capped at 1%, the Department for Education has announced, as the Government sticks to its public sector wage restraint.

In a sign that austerity continues, more than 500,000 teachers in England and Wales will face a real-terms pay cut after the Government has responded to the teachers’ pay review body and has stuck to its public sector pay limits.

A pay freeze - initially at 0% and later 1% - has been in place since 2010 when introduced by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

The Department of Education made clear it had accepted the recommendations of an independent review body, and that headteachers had the discretion to award pay rises of up to 2%.

The move appears to dampen suggestions the Government was looking to end austerity and lift the pay freeze affecting millions of public sector workers.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond have been under pressure to lift the pay cap, including from a number of Government ministers, after the party lost its majority in the General Election to anti-austerity Labour, which has pledged to scrap the 1% ceiling.

Monday’s move is likely to be seen as a sign that the Government intends to stick to its plans to keep a tight hold on the strings of the public purse.

In a written statement, Education Secretary Justine Greening said the School Teachers’ Review Body’s recommendations, due to be introduced in September, “are consistent with the Government’s 1% public sector pay policy”.

The Government has accepted a recommendation that teachers on the minimum of the main pay scale get an increase of up to 2%. These are typically teachers in the first few years of their career. There was a similar recommendation two years ago.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has calculated that teachers’ wage increases fell behind RPI inflation by 13% between 2010 and 2016.

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“This is a missed opportunity which the Government will come to regret as the teacher recruitment and retention crisis gets worse.

“The Government’s attack on national pay scales and its pursuit of performance related pay at a time of funding cuts in schools has meant that teachers are increasingly unlikely to get pay progression either.  The result is that the Government’s own figures show that average pay for classroom teachers has only gone up by £300 - less than 1% - since 2010.

“The School Teachers’ Review Body has told the Government that teachers continue to be paid less than other graduate professionals throughout their careers and that the pressures faced by schools in attracting high quality teachers have not reduced.  It has also said that there needs to be a longer-term investment in an effective teaching workforce.

“This clearly supports the NUT’s argument that the Government needs to invest in more and better paid school staff.” 

The Green Party’s Spokesperson for Education, Vix Lowthion, a secondary school teacher, said:

“The Government’s pay review is another betrayal of teachers. Not only is a low pay award set to hinder new entrants to the profession, but it will increase the damage from the teacher retention crisis.

“Those of us on the front lines of teaching are seeing colleagues leave the profession in droves.

“Teachers are struggling to make ends meet and juggle the growing pressures of working in schools which are being stripped of the money they need.

“The government must stop taking teachers for granted, and give them the proper pay rise they deserve.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said:

“For many teachers, this marks the seventh successive real-terms cut in their pay.

“We will not be able to attract the best and brightest to teaching if we constantly cut their pay.”

Last week, Mrs May poured cold water on calls to end pay restraint, telling MPs at Prime Ministers’ Questions that upcoming recommendations from review bodies - including the STRB - would be “very carefully considered”.

But she also left little doubt her position chimes with that of Hammond, who has warned a relaxation of pay restraint would require extra borrowing or tax rises to avoid increasing the deficit.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused her of ″recklessly exploiting the goodwill of public servants″ by continuing with a policy which delivers a real-terms pay cut to millions of workers at a time when inflation is running at 2.9%.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had ″a great deal of sympathy″ for nurses’ demands for higher rises, while sources said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson privately backs a wage boost for public sector staff.

Johnson later stressed the need to be ″fiscally sensible and responsible″ on public sector pay, acknowledging it was ″⁣important that you manage your economy sensibly″⁣ and do not have a spending ″⁣splurge″⁣.

The STRB is one of a number of independent bodies that put forward recommendations for wage increases, which are then accepted or rejected by Government departments.

In recent years, these recommendations have been affected by a Government cap on public sector pay as part of austerity measures.

After the 2010 general election, there was a two-year pay freeze with school staff receiving a zero increase in 2011 and 2012. Since then, there has been a cap of 1%.

A Department of Education spokesperson said:

“We recognise and value the hard work of teachers which is why we have accepted the pay deal proposed by the independent School Teachers’ Review Body, in line with the 1% public sector pay policy.  This will ensure we continue to strike the balance between being fair to public sector workers and fair to taxpayers.

“This deal also allows headteachers to give some teachers up to a 2% pay uplift – alongside generous training bursaries and competitive starting salaries.”

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