Pay rises branded 'divisive and inadequate' by both teacher and leadership unions

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

This year’s teacher pay rise, which gives early career teachers 5.5 per cent compared to a 2.75 per cent uplift for more experienced colleagues, has been labelled “divisive and inadequate” by both teacher and leadership unions.


In July, the School Teachers’ Review Body published its recommendations for the September 2020 pay rise (STRB, 2020) and these have been accepted by education secretary Gavin Williamson.

The STRB set out an increase to the minimum of the main pay range (MPR) of 5.5 per cent, while the maximum is to rise by just 2.75 per cent. All other pay ranges will also rise by 2.75 per cent.

It means an increase of £1,341 to £25,714 for the MPR minimum outside London. The MPR maximum increases by £990 to £36,961.

Meanwhile, the upper pay range (UPR) minimum increases by £1,036 to £38,690 while the maximum is up £1,114 to £41,604.

The pay increases are part of the Department for Education’s (DfE) plans to increase starting salaries to £30,000 by September 2022 in a bid to tackle on-going teacher recruitment and retention problems.

However, four education unions have written this week to Mr Williamson expressing their concern about the “divisive” pay rises. It comes as the unions submitted their joint response to the consultation over the STRB’s July report, which closed this week.

In a joint covering statement, the general secretaries of the four unions – the Association of School and College Leaders, National Association of Head Teachers, National Education Union, and Voice – said: “Teachers and school leaders agree that these proposals are divisive and inadequate. Giving lower pay increases to experienced teachers than to new teachers will not address the current problems but will instead create new ones.

“The government must improve teacher pay levels and pay prospects, and drop damaging and unfair performance-related pay, if we are to tackle the serious and entrenched teacher recruitment and retention problems.

“Since 2010 the value of teacher pay against inflation has been cut, PRP and funding cuts have restricted teacher pay progression, and the national teacher pay structure has been dismantled. It is no surprise that after a decade of attacks on teacher pay, we struggle to recruit and keep the teachers and school leaders we need.”

It comes as targets for post-graduate initial teacher training (ITT) have been missed for eight years running now, with 89 per cent being recruited in 2019/20.

Leaving rates also remain high for early career teachers in their first three years. The STRB’s report warns that leaving rates have also risen in the 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 age brackets.

Research published in June (Worth, 2020) shows that the overall rate of teachers leaving state secondary schools fell from 10.4 per cent in 2017/18 to 9.9 per cent in 2018/19. The primary teacher leaving rate also decreased, from 9.6 per cent in 2017/18 to 9.3 per cent in 2018/19.

However, the paper says that the retention of NQTs and second-year teachers continues to fall. It finds that in 2018/19, there was a net reduction in the NQT and year 2 teacher cohort of around 15 percentage points.

The DfE says that its plans for teacher pay could see more than 1,000 extra teachers being retained per year by 2022/23.

However, the unions want to see a “significantly higher pay increase applied equally to all teachers and school leaders” as well as the removal of performance-related pay.

Their response states: “Feedback from our members underlines the key point we have raised previously, that experienced teachers and leaders are dismayed to see that they will receive only half the increase announced for starting pay. We are clear that differentiated pay rises in favour of early career teachers will not promote retention, or support the supply line to leadership.”

In a written ministerial statement in July, Mr Williamson accepted the STRB’s recommendations. He said: “This government made a commitment to increase starting salaries nationally for teachers to £30,000 by 2022/23. This pay award takes the first step to delivering this commitment, with a 5.5 per cent increase to starting salaries worth between £1,341 and £1,677 depending on location. This will mean that starting salaries for new teachers will be between £25,714 and £32,157 depending on location in the 2020/21 academic year.

“This pay award also takes a decisive step towards a pay structure which better supports teacher retention, with large increases to early career pay where we know retention is most challenging. Alongside other crucial reforms such as the Early Career Framework and new National Professional Qualifications, this pay award will help to ensure we are retaining great teachers through the crucial early career phase.”

Advisory pay points are also being reintroduced on the MPR and UPR following the recommendation of the STRB. This will mean six pay points on the MPR and three on the UPR.

Its report states: “There was consensus among our consultees that reintroducing pay points on the MPR and UPR would have a positive impact on the teacher workforce by providing greater clarity about pay and career progression, and some have made representations about this for several years.”


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