Main-scale teachers to receive a 3.5% increase in salaries but funding shortages deepens gloom

17 Aug

Shortly after the schools and academies closed for the summer term 2018, the government announced on 24 July 2018 – the last day of Parliament – the pay rises for teachers.

The awards were as follows.

  • 5% uplift to the minimum and maximum of the main pay range (MPR), which means that the salary of a teacher could rise from £1,184 to £1,366.
  • 2% uplift to the minimum and maximum of the upper pay range (UPR)
  • 5% uplift to the minimum and maximum of the leadership pay range

Academies do not have to comply with the Pay and Conditions Regulations and grant the pay increases, but schools must.    Schools have flexibility about pay rises on the points in between.  However, the teacher unions have warned that those that fail to pass on the full pay rise to teachers will face an ‘industrial relations disaster’.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, told The Times Educational Supplement: “We have already heard from members on the last day of term [when the pay award was announced] whose school leaders have said, ‘Well, we can’t afford to pay.’ We expect the award to be paid in full to all members.”   She added that the NEU would be “monitoring that situation very closely”.  This is unsurprising, especially in the light of the DfE data that shows the percentage of academy trusts in deficit increased to 6.1% in 2016-17, a 0.6% rise on the previous year.

Early in July 2018, the five teaching unions – the National Education Union (NEU), the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), UCAC (the Welsh Union – Undeb Cenedlathol Athrawon Cymru) and Voice –  jointly submitted a claim for a fully-funded “restorative pay rise” of 5%  for “all teachers and school leaders” in England and Wales to provide both a cost-of-living increase and a first step towards restoring “the real value of teaching salaries to 2010 levels”. The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) wants a hefty pay rise after years of austerity but failed to name a figure in its submission to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB).

During the last seven years, teachers were subjected to pay restraints – a pay freeze in the first two years and a 1% rise cap for each of the next five.  Owing to the cost of goods and services increasing at a much greater rate than salary rises, teachers fell behind other professions in their standards of living.

The government expects schools to fund the first 1% increase and the DfE will fund the rest – i.e. £508 million.   The Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, made it clear that as far as education is concerned, the piggy bank was empty.   Apart from the NHS, who will have their funding increased by a few billion pounds, only the Defence Department will receive £800 extra from the Treasury.

Total funding in English schools/academies decreased by 8% in real terms between 2009 and 2017, according to research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS). However, the DfE has countered this by declaring that core school/academy funding will increase to £43.5 billion by 2020.

The IFS study revealed that rising pupil numbers and reductions to local authority and sixth-form funding saw a real-term reduction in educational spending.  Sixth-form funding went down by 25% and financial support for local authorities plummeted by 55%.   The IFS analysis added that between 2015 and 2017 core budget funding for pupils up to the age of 6 fell by 4%.

Governors and school/academy leaders have been beating their collective chests in protest at the cash shortages.  They have been compelled to cut staff and request parents to make voluntary contributions.  A Jewish secondary school in Manchester asked the parent/s of each student to “donate” £1,000 annually to enable it to make ends meet, for instance.

James Ludlow, headteacher of the King’s Church of England School, told the BBC he was “extremely angry” that the budget shortage caused him to cut 14 staff members and that is still not enough to repair 300 holes in the roof.

According to the Education Policy Institute (EPI) the number of local authority secondary schools’ deficit rose from 8.8% in 2013-14 to 26.1% in 2016-17.   It also found that there were many other primary schools in deficit.

Secretary of State Damian Hinds did admit to the NAHT at its Liverpool conference in May 2018 that schools/academies were the subject of funding pressures. “It is challenging for schools making the numbers add up,” he said.  “Society asks much more of schools than we did a generation ago.”

Reflections

Prior to the most recent cabinet reshuffle, when Justine Greening was Secretary of State for Education, she instructed the School Teachers’ Review Body to assess “what adjustments should be made to the salary and allowance ranges for classroom teachers, unqualified teachers and school leaders to promote recruitment and retention”.

The STRB recommended that teachers across the board receive an increase of 3.5%.   However, Damian Hinds, the current Secretary of State for Education, decided that only qualified teachers on the main scale and unqualified teachers were to receive an uplift of 3.5% as it was more important for the purposes of recruitment and retention.   Those on the Upper Pay Spine and the leadership scale are now being left kicking their heels with increases of 2% and 1.5% which is below the inflation rate of 2.4%.

It has been custom and practice for the Secretary of State to adopt the recommendations of the STRB in their entirety.   Not this time.   The STRB’s proposals are just that – proposals, and, in law, the Secretary of State can decide as he so wishes, provided he has considered the proposals, which he has done.

Main scale and unqualified teachers will be doing much better in the salary rises than Armed Forces who will see salary increase of 2.9%, prison officers – 2.75%, and the police, General Practitioners and dentists – 2%.

So, where exactly is the DfE to find the extra £508 million promised to schools and academies especially as it has given us an undertaking that there would be no cuts to existing programmes?  No one currently knows.

Meanwhile, the unions are caught between a rock and a hard place about what precisely to do – accept or revolt with strike action?  They had asked for a 5% uplift, but 3.5% is generous compared to what those in other professions will receive or have received.  However, those on the Upper Pay Spine and leadership scale, have been left languishing.   It is unlikely that the rank and file of teachers will want to strike.  The Trade Union Act of 2016 requires a ballot turnout for strike action of 50% with at least 40% of the union membership voting for it.

The uplift of 3.5% for qualified, main-scale and unqualified teachers (assuming that schools and academies accede to what the Secretary of State has proposed) will go some way towards recruiting and retaining them.  (New workforce data published at the end of July 2018 revealed that overall teacher numbers fell in 2017 owing to a decrease in the number of teachers joining the profession and those leaving stating constant.)

To stem the teacher-haemorrhage, the Secretary of State Damian Hinds announced (at the close of the last academic year) that headteachers would receive more support to free their teachers from unnecessary, time-consuming tasks so that they could concentrate on what mattered to children’s education.

The online toolkit provides schools/academies

  1. advice and workshops on the most burdensome tasks such as pupil feedback and marking, planning and resources, and data management;
  2. ready-made tools to help schools quickly implement new policies, and cut down on time-consuming tasks such as email communication; and
  • a series of case studies to share knowledge of how schools across the country have used technology to streamline processes.

This will build on what headteachers are already doing, as reported in research carried out by the School Snapshot Survey at the tail-end of 2017 revealing that 73% of school/academy leaders had already reduced unnecessary workload, such as an overhaul of marking practices.

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