6.7% vs 2.5%? Anger at disparities in DfE teacher pay proposals for September 2020

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You get what you pay for: already precious few maths graduates enter teaching (spot them among ...

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There is anger this week at notable disparities in the September 2020 pay rises being put forward by the Department for Education (DfE).

The DfE wants to see a 6.7 per cent rise in salaries for NQTs – but at the same time is only proposing a 2.5 per cent uplift for leaders and experienced teachers.

The proposals, submitted as part of the DfE’s evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), would increase starting salaries to at least £26,000 (£30,000 and £32,000 in outer and inner London) by September 2020.

On the top of this 6.7 per cent uplift for M1 (main pay scale), the DfE also proposes uplifts ranging from 5.8 per cent for M2 to 3.2 per cent for M5 (see table, below).

However, teachers on M6 and the upper pay ranges, as well as school leaders, will get 2.5 per cent under the DfE plan.

The DfE says it would be the “biggest sustained uplift to pay ranges since 2005”. Its ultimate goal is to increase starting salaries to £30,000 by 2022.

The STRB is due to publish its final report and recommendations in April, but the disparity in the DfE’s proposals has angered teaching and leadership unions, who are concerned that the 2.5 per cent will barely match inflation and will do nothing to help leadership supply.

Concerns have also been raised that flatter pay ranges will not properly reward career progression and that the proposed increases will wipe out much of the planned £7.1 billion funding increase for schools.

The current retention situation is stark. Between 2010/11 and 2014/15, the rate of working-age teachers leaving the profession has increased from 8.9 to 10.3 per cent in primary schools and from 10.8 to 11.8 per cent in secondary schools (Worth et al, 2018).

The problem is particularly acute for new and early year teachers. In 2015, DfE statistics revealed that 30 per cent of NQTs who started teaching in 2010 had – five years later – quit (SecEd, 2016).

Furthermore, by 2025 there will be 15 per cent more pupils in secondary schools than there were in 2018, meaning the number of teachers will need to grow by almost 9,000 by 2025 (DfE, 2020).

Analysis from the Association of School and College Leaders as part of its own evidence submission to the STRB (ASCL, 2020), shows that on current trends 44 per cent of the teachers who have qualified since 2008 are likely to leave the profession over the 10-year period between 2018 and 2028.

For the DfE’s part, it says that its proposals would help ease the on-going recruitment and retention crisis. It claims that, if enacted, the plan could see more than 1,000 extra teachers retained per year by 2022/23.

The DfE also believes that it is affordable for schools because of the existing plans to increase school funding by £7.1 billion between 2019/20 and 2022/23. This begins with an additional £2.6 billion for 2020/21.

However, Geoff Barton, the ASCL general secretary, is concerned. He said: “It is of critical importance that increases to the pay of teachers are fully funded by the government. We are extremely concerned that the government expects the entire sum of money necessary to implement its proposal for a starting salary of £30,000 to come from the extra £7.1 billion it has promised will reverse the cuts to school budgets.

“This is a case of giving with one hand and taking with the other. Schools will once again be in the invidious position of having to make further staff cuts in order to afford the cost of the pay award to teachers.”

ASCL is also worried about the ambition of education secretary Gavin Williamson to move to a “relatively flatter pay progression structure”, something he supported in his remit letter to the STRB last year (DfE, 2019).

In its submission to the STRB, ASCL states: “Our evidence warns that this proposal would create even more difficulties in retaining teachers because they would not be sufficiently rewarded as they progressed through their careers.”

ASCL, instead, wants to see uplifts for all teachers and leaders that will maintain the “percentage differentials between pay points on the teacher and leader pay scales”.

The National Education Union (NEU) agrees, warning that the 2.5 per cent rise will “barely” match the forecast level of RPI inflation.

Joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “The government should know from teachers’ reaction to previous differentiated pay increases that this announcement will create widespread dismay. With teacher retention problems worsening, this is a devastating message for experienced and dedicated teachers.”

In its submission to the STRB, the NEU is asking for a fully funded seven per cent pay rise for all teachers “as the start of a process of restoring the real-terms cuts to teacher pay in England since 2010”. It also wants to see the removal of performance-related pay.

However, Jack Worth, who has been leading the school workforce research programme at the National Foundation for Educational Research, said: “Our research suggests that pay is a less important factor for most teachers’ decision about whether to stay in the profession: workload, work/life balance and job satisfaction are much bigger issues. However, early career teachers and teachers of shortage subjects tend to be more responsive to pay, so are arguably the best group to target limited resources at.”

The National Association of Head Teachers, meanwhile, has reminded the DfE that leadership pay has fallen by 14.8 per cent in the past decade.

General secretary Paul Whiteman said he rejected “the lazy notion that pay is a bit player in the broader recruitment and retention game”.

He added: “The government’s ambition to raise starting salaries to £30,000, while welcome, would be a mistake without also addressing the decade-long real-terms reduction to the salaries of leaders. It also further erodes the difference between teacher pay and leadership pay. The STRB itself recognised the risks of such a policy being 'ineffective in its own terms' – 2.5 per cent for leaders this year will not redress the real-terms losses they have endured in the past decade.”

You don't get good leaders without a pool of good teachers. When the government cut rank and file soldiers years ago, but wanted to increase special forces funding, the army noted that they can't increase the size of the special forces with a smaller pool of candidates without cutting quality. Getting grads into teaching at the bottom is important and the headline starting salary is one of the first things they look at.

I'm taking a pay cut to enter teaching, and I'm okay with that, but I need a level of pay to make it worth it. Without the extra promised pay, I wouldn't stay in the profession. Even more important than pay is workload - but surely more teachers should indirectly help with that too? No more having to cover another subject because your school is short-staffed.

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You get what you pay for: already precious few maths graduates enter teaching (spot them among NQTs: maths 'specialists' are largely psychologists and other 'users'), we don't invest in training them in depth (our overseas colleagues can't believe some of our lightweight teacher preparation), and we are not going to reward highly-skilled professionals (taking about 7 or 8 years to get to optimum effectiveness) for their extra expertise and the responsibilities they take on. Increasingly, able graduates wanting a longterm career will look to teaching only if they share incomes with a well-paid partner: money isn't everything, by any means, but it reflects the value we're perceived to put on people's work (in this case, often 60+ hours per week..).
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