Charlie Stayt told Nadhim Zahawi in the middle of their interview on BBC Breakfast he didn’t understand what the senior minister was talking about – while the education secretary seemed to nod in agreement.
Stayt told Zahawi, “I don’t really understand what you’re saying if I’m honest with you” when he got lost in the conversation about teachers’ wages.
Discussing the government’s promise to create a high-wage, high-skilled workforce, Stayt said to the newly-appointed education secretary: “It’s good news for a handful of teachers – the rest of them are now involved in a pay freeze.
“You will know very well that if you have a pay freeze now, inflation is going up – you’re worse off.
“So given that teachers have a pay freeze, how are they going to gain from the prime minister’s mantra of higher wages?”
Zahawi replied: “Teachers have done a phenomenal job. Starting jobs will touch £30,000 – we’re pretty much almost there now. We’ll make sure we get there.”
Stayt interrupted and said: “We’re asking for specifics if you don’t mind. My understanding is that teachers will get £30,000 in 2024. Is that correct?”
Zahawi said he could not give a definite answer until there was a spending review – but pointed out that the average teacher’s salary is £41,800.
The education secretary continued: “You’re right there has been a pay freeze, from 2021 back to 2019/2020, the increase is about 7% because teachers have a path to increasing their salary as they improve and extend their experience...”
The BBC presenter interrupted and said: “If I may, I’m going to jump in because I don’t really understand what you’re saying if I’m honest with you.”
Zahawi replied, “sure”, and nodded his head.
Zahawi was being pressed about the prime minister’s new £3,000 premium which aims to encourage science and maths teachers to work in disadvantaged areas, even though Boris Johnson has recently scrapped a similar scheme announced only last year.
It was the only main policy announcement of Johnson’s keynote speech on Wednesday during the Tory Party conference.
Johnson said: “To level up – on top of the increase which means every teacher starts with a salary of £30,000, we’re announcing today a levelling up premium of £3,000 to send maths and science teachers to the places that need them most.”
Downing Street later clarified that this would be a one-off fee between £1,000 and £3,000 for teachers in the first five years of their career.