Unions demand recognition of teacher recruitment crisis

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

In a strongly worded joint submission to the STRB, six education unions have attacked the DfE for its failure to acknowledge the recruitment crisis and have demanded decisive action on teachers’ pay

The government must no longer deny the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention and must accept that teachers need a funded pay increase to reflect rates of inflation.

The strongly worded call has been made by six education unions in a joint letter submitted to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), which is currently preparing its recommendations for teachers’ pay in England and Wales from September 2017.
The unions are angry that the Department for Education (DfE), in its own submission to the STRB, has not acknowledged the extent of the recruitment problems facing schools.
The government wants the STRB to recommend a one per cent average rise for teachers in line with the government’s Autumn Statement, although in her remit to the STRB, education secretary Justine Greening has said that “there should not be an expectation that every worker will receive a one per cent award”.
The six unions, however, warn that teachers’ pay has declined and “must be uplifted” in order to make the profession more attractive to graduates and career-changers.
The joint submission has come from the Association of School and College Leaders, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, National Association of Head Teachers, National Union of Teachers, Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru, and Voice.
It states: “Teachers and school leaders have seen six years of pay freezes and pay caps resulting in a real-terms pay cut of 11.5 per cent between September 2010 and September 2016. The profession now faces a further four years of one per cent pay limits which will, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, reduce wages in the public sector to their lowest level in relation to the private sector since at least the 1990s.
“The government must make the profession attractive to new graduates, career-changers and those who have taken a career break from teaching if we are to meet the increased demand for teachers from the increased pupil population in both England and Wales. Pay is a critical factor for those considering their future career path.”
The STRB in its 26th report, published last year, told ministers that “there is a case for an uplift higher than one per cent to the national pay framework, to strengthen the competitive position of the teaching profession at a time of growing demand for graduates”. However, the advice fell on deaf ears.
In their submission, the unions question why the DfE’s evidence did not include its own recent report Schools Workforce in England 2010 to 2015, which was published in September. The report revealed that 23 per cent of secondary schools reported a vacancy or temporarily filled post in England in November 2015, up seven per cent on 2011.
The unions’ submission states: “The same report also showed a rise in the employment of unqualified teachers, and that wastage rates of leavers in the sector, for reasons other than retirement, had increased. This all confirms the growing crisis in attracting and retaining teachers to which we have all referred and which the DfE’s evidence has denied.”
More recently, the latest teacher training figures showed that the DfE’s targets have been missed for the fourth year running, with only four secondary subjects recruiting enough trainee teachers. Overall in 2016/17, only 15,713 secondary trainees have been recruited against a target of 17,687.
The unions’ submission adds: “Our individual evidence (to the STRB) reported on the concern of school leaders, and even Ofsted, and it would appear that only the government fails to recognise that allowing teachers’ pay to decline is harming education and must be halted.”
The unions also point to the recent National Audit Office report, which revealed that the DfE expects schools to make £3 billion in savings by 2019/20. They state: “The NAO identifies that many of these cost pressures on schools have come from government policy, including increasing employer pension and national insurance contributions and the imposition of the Apprenticeship Levy. It appears that the government is prepared to prejudice school budgets for its favoured policy objectives but not to ensure that the nation’s children can have continued access to the best teaching professionals.
“The increases to pay in September 2017 must be fully funded for schools in both England and Wales.”
The unions highlight evidence that inflation in 2017 could reach three per cent and call for the annual uplift to be applied to all salaries and allowances and not to be discretionary.
In its submission to the STRB, the DfE states: “We recognise that teacher recruitment has been a challenge, not least in the context of an improving economy and a strengthening graduate labour market.”
However, the DfE warns that the pay uplift must come from within school budgets and that a one per cent pay uplift awarded to all salaries and relevant allowances in 2017/18 would cost £250 million – bringing the total pay bill to of £25.3 billion.
It states: “The costs of the 2017 pay award will need to be met from within school budgets. This makes affordability a key consideration for this remit.”
A one per cent uplift in 2017 would mean the main pay range for classroom teachers in England and Wales moves to £22,691-£33,491 and the upper pay range moves to £35,926-£38,633. The STRB has been asked to report back with its recommendations by April.


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