'Enough is enough’ – pay anger in Scottish schools

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has threatened strikes this year unless a rise in teachers’ pay at least matches inflation after more than a decade of falling real wages.

Larry Flanagan, the EIS general secretary, said: “The clear message that teachers wish their employers and the Scottish government to hear is that enough is enough and that the era of real-terms pay cuts must end.
“For far too long, teachers have been paying the price of austerity-driven cuts prompted by a financial situation that was not of their making.

“This has led to a decade-long decline in teachers’ pay with serious implications for teacher recruitment, retention and for education provision across the country.”

A Scottish government spokesman said officials were working with trade unions and local authorities via the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers to improve pay and conditions. Planned education reforms would also create new opportunities for teachers to develop their careers, he said.

However, a rise in graduate pay in other professions over the same period has made it “ever more difficult” to attract people into teaching, Mr Flanagan added, particularly in some parts of the country and in science, technology and mathematics subjects where pay in industry is substantially higher. “We have a very clear objective – to achieve a meaningful pay award that will start the process of returning teachers’ pay to pre-austerity levels.”

SNP finance secretary Derek Mackay has already pledged a three per cent pay rise for teachers, NHS staff, police and others earning up to £30,000 – with two per cent for those earning more than £30,000.

However, the Scottish government is under further pressure to award primary and secondary teachers more after it backed a move to set salary levels for unpromoted lecturers in the college sector at £40,000.

With pay talks imminent, the EIS said anything under inflation would not suffice, arguing that the salary of an unpromoted teacher, currently just over £36,000, has dropped by about 16 per cent since 2003.

However, councils have questioned whether the potential rises are affordable amid real-terms cuts to funding.

The value of pay for secondary staff in Scotland was ranked 19th out of 37 countries, compared with eighth in 2007, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Their salaries were worth less in real terms than in 2005.

Promotion opportunities have also shrunk after councils replaced principal teachers with faculty structures. Different subjects are grouped under one promoted teacher, even though the subjects may fall outside their specialisms.


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