Education unions: funding cuts will hit teacher quality

Reductions in funding and erosion of teacher pay is undermining standards, say unions in STRB statement

School unions have issued a joint statement to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), opposing the Government’s wish to continue to limit teachers’ annual pay increases to an average of one per cent for a further four years, following five years of imposed pay restraint.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), says of the statement:  “If teachers’ salaries continue to fall in real terms the Government stands no chance of providing the extra 160,000 additional teachers needed over the next three years to cope with the projected rise in pupil numbers. The numbers applying for initial teacher training are rapidly declining and more teachers left the profession last year than in any previous year, so unless teachers get a significant pay rise schools will have to start increasing class sizes or shutting courses and cutting the subject options available to pupils.” 

ASCL, ATL, NAHT, NUT, UCAC and Voice have submitted a joint document to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), making the following points:

We are facing a national crisis in number of teachers and as pay and prospects improve in comparable occupations, further pressure will be placed on recruitment and retention. The STRB must accept that we are facing a national crisis, not “a challenge” in teacher supply, which means more children will not be taught by teachers qualified in the subject they teach. DfE data has failed to capture the scale of the crisis.

School budgets are at breaking point

Schools are facing real terms cuts in funding, at a point when an overall funding increase is needed. Schools are under insurmountable pressure to maintain current spending, let alone afford pay increases or other forecast increases in costs such as national insurance increases coming in from April. The Government must fully fund the necessary pay increases for teachers and school leaders in both England and Wales.

Teachers are an investment, not a cost

Teachers need a pay rise. The public sector pay policy of the past five years has depressed teachers’ real earnings to the extent that recruitment and retention are being seriously harmed. We are asking the STRB to recommend a fair pay award for teachers for the highly skilled, important jobs that they do. A significant pay increase is needed for teachers at all stages of their careers so we can ensure there are enough teachers for the number of pupils.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said that four more years of pay austerity was a ‘false economy’, affecting our ability to attract and retain great teachers.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), agreed: “Head teachers across the country are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit staff because teacher salaries are becoming less and less competitive. Years of pay restraint are now extracting their toll. High standards require great teachers; this is an investment in our future not a short term cost to the country. And competitive salaries that match other graduate professions must be funded appropriately by the government when it sets school budgets.” 

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), referred to the recent advertising campaign which, according to critics, inflated potential earnings. He said: “No amount of misleading advertising which claims that great teachers can earn £65k can cover up the basic pay problems. The fact that headline teacher pay rises are pegged at 1% and that teacher pay lags behind other graduate professions is a major factor in the on-going teacher shortage crisis. Nicky Morgan needs to address this growing pay-gap urgently.

Schools need to be properly funded to be able to afford their National Insurance and teacher pension contributions they now have to pay out for, Kevin said. However, resources are lacking and teachers are leaving the profession ‘in droves’. He concluded: “It is quite clear that unless teachers’ salaries reflect the work they do this is a situation that will only get worse, with disastrous consequences for education and pupils.”    

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