The education secretary chose the closing days of last term to publish the 21st report of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) on the teachers’ pay system for England and Wales and his response to its recommendations.
He declared that “subject to the views of consultees, I intend to accept all of the recommendations”. Then, on a matter which is of critical and fundamental importance to almost half a million teachers, he allowed only 12 working days for consultees to respond, demonstrating that once again this secretary of state has no interest in genuine or meaningful consultation.
It was disappointing to note that the STRB’s recommendations were at variance with the views of other public service review bodies which reported at the same time. All other review bodies confirmed the importance of retaining a national pay framework, but the STRB opted for pay flexibilities and discretions for individual schools which are so wide-ranging that, if adopted, the only guarantee on salary for any teacher is the minimum starting salary.
On the basis of teachers’ existing contractual provisions for pay and conditions of service, this country currently ranks sixth in the world among the highest performing education systems. These current contractual provisions had by 2010 resolved the teacher recruitment and retention crisis of the mid-1990s, had returned teaching to the top career choice for graduates, and had seen standards in education rise.
Yet despite this and in the absence of any evidence to justify such proposals, the STRB has chosen to recommend the replacement of the current system with what will be a crude system of payment by results in practice. There is extensive evidence to show that the greater the managerial discretion over the pay of individuals, the greater the potential for unfairness and discrimination.
Analysis shows that in such systems people over 40 get poorer outcomes than younger colleagues, men secure better outcomes than women in senior grades, Black and minority ethnic groups get poorer outcomes than White colleagues, those with disabilities are disadvantaged, and managers tend to reward those who put in longer hours, are visible to them and who they get on with rather than rewarding skill, experience, expertise and performance.
There can be no doubt that the introduction of increased flexibilities at a time of savage and increasing cuts to funding will be used, not to reward teachers, but to depress their pay to balance school budgets.
Children will bear the consequences too. A highly skilled and committed profession necessary to maintain and enhance the highest standards of education cannot be built on a foundation of temporary allowances, extensive discretionary payments and awards which bear little or no relationship to the breadth or weight of responsibilities teachers undertake.
These recommendations will have an adverse impact on the recruitment and retention of good teachers, which is already being compromised by the adverse impact of other education policies introduced by the coalition government. These have resulted in applications for initial teacher training plunging by 30 per cent and a staggering 50 per cent increase in the number of teachers leaving the profession.
These pay discretions will be exercised in the context of performance management and therefore never has it been more important to implement in every school across England and Wales all of the national instructions, including the one relating to performance management, which will not only protect teachers individually and collectively but will also secure a fair and transparent system of performance management which is needed now more than ever.