Flouting the law on teachers' pay

Written by: Chris Keates | Published:

While the recruitment crisis worsens, teachers continue to be denied their minimum pay uplift entitlements, with many schools flouting the law

Thousands of teachers have started the new year without having received the pay award or pay progression to which they are entitled.

A survey of more than 5,000 teachers carried out by NASUWT in December found that almost three-quarters of teachers on the main pay range have neither received nor had confirmation that they will receive the two per cent award which was due to be paid from September 1, 2017, despite this being a legal requirement.

Teachers on the upper pay range have fared no better. Almost half (48 per cent) have neither received nor had confirmation of the one per cent uplift to which they are entitled. Almost two-thirds of teachers in receipt of allowances for additional responsibilities had not been given the statutory one per cent uplift on those allowances.

And if being denied their pay award was not enough, 60 per cent of teachers eligible to receive performance pay progression, which is separate to the annual pay award, had not received any payment.

It is clear from the survey that a large number of schools are flouting the law and denying teachers’ their statutory pay entitlements. Unfortunately this is not a new situation.

Every year when the School Teachers’ Review Body makes its pay recommendations and teachers’ appraisal reviews are due, the excuses and strategies are trotted out to deny teachers their entitlements. Unachievable targets and expectations are set as a barrier to pay progression. Women returning from maternity leave and older teachers are just some of those who face blatant discriminatory practices and, of course, when all else fails affordability is the reason given for withholding pay.

Education, like other public services across the UK, has been hard hit by cuts to public spending.

Funding is a live and critical issue, but it is not a justification for withholding the pay and pay progression of teachers.

Higher levels of investment in education, including in the school workforce, are undoubtedly required but changes to funding formulas and austerity in public spending do not automatically equate to unaffordability of teachers’ pay at school level and it is essential that teachers themselves resist being conditioned to believe that it does.

The reality is that finding any reason not to pay teachers has become hardwired into the system. Denying teachers their pay entitlements predates current austerity. Evidence shows that even at times when there have been unprecedented levels of investment in education and when specific funding was allocated for teachers’ pay and pay progression, too many schools still claimed they could not afford teachers’ pay progression or pay awards.

Since 2011 teachers’ pay has been cut by 16 per cent in real terms.

New entrants to the profession are being deterred by starting salaries which are 20 per cent below comparable graduate professions.

New teachers and older teachers are leaving the profession, as excessive workload, pay cuts and increasingly unreasonable expectations prove to be a toxic combination fuelling the deep crisis in teacher supply.

And yet, despite this, schools continue to deny teachers even the minimum pay entitlements of one or two per cent, threatening job loss or worsening conditions of service if teachers dare to press the issue, even when they are in schools which have stockpiled thousands of pounds of public money in reserves – £1.7 billion is currently held in maintained school reserves in England, with £2.3 billion in surplus in academies.

The excessive financial autonomy schools have been given has spawned widespread inefficiencies in the system, with money being poured into duplicating services, often at premium costs – £170 million has been spent in one year alone by academies on hiring consultants. Eye-watering sums are paid to executive heads and consultants, with the salaries of some CEOs and executive heads 10 times that of the average teacher, with pay rises of more than 15 per cent being given.

When all evidence shows that it is the teacher in the classroom who makes the biggest difference to educational progress, it is not a case of whether a school can afford to pay teachers but whether it can afford not to.

The teacher recruitment and retention crisis will never be resolved while policies and practices which enable employers to pay teachers as little as they can get away with are allowed to flourish. When employers short-change teachers, they are also short-changing children and young people, compromising their educational standards.


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