Five reasons why a restorative pay award for teachers is essential.
The reports of the STRB (England) and IWPRB (Wales) on the teachers’ pay awards for 2022/23 are expected imminently and both will be crucial for the teaching profession, at a time of a deepening recruitment, retention and cost-of-living crisis.
Both pay review body reports will be looked at keenly, in terms of whether these bodies manage to assert their independence and deliver pay awards that begin to restore the real-terms value of teachers’ pay after 12 years of cuts and austerity.
The 2022/23 pay awards will also be critically important for the future delivery of the government’s ambitions of securing education recovery and tackling the impact of widening inequality and the effect of increased levels of child poverty on educational progress and achievement.
Delivering restorative pay awards are critical for a number of reasons. Here are five.
1, The crisis in teacher recruitment and retention and leadership succession
We know that pay is a key factor affecting teacher recruitment and retention. Against a background of 12 years of pay austerity and a 19% real-terms decline in the value of teachers’ pay since 2010 (based on what pay would have been if it had grown in line with inflation), 54% of teachers today cite pay as a key factor driving their decisions to leave the profession, according to our 2022 pay survey of members. This needs to be addressed, starting with a pay award of at least 12% for teachers and headteachers from this September.
2, The worst cost-of-living crisis in 50 years
The rate of inflation as measured by RPI is currently running at more than 11%. Many teachers can no longer afford to do the job, and many have already jumped ship into other jobs, benefiting either from better pay or lower levels of workload and stress.
Our evidence points to teachers now relying on food banks to make ends meet. Many teachers and headteachers are bringing forward plans for their retirement, creating added uncertainty for schools. The loss of experienced teachers is already beginning to bite. Teachers need to know that this year and going forwards, their pay will keep pace with living costs.
3, The lack of competitiveness
In the last 12 years, teachers’ pay has fallen further and further behind other comparable graduate professions.
Again, the government has consistently failed to meet its teacher training recruitment targets. The government has presided over a system wherein teaching is no longer the profession of choice for graduates.
For supply teachers, the impact of pay freezes and low pay has been even more devastating – forcing an exodus of supply teachers from the profession.
The Westminster government’s proposals for delivering a £30,000 starting salary for teachers represents yet another broken general election promise, and it is already insufficient in the face of the worst cost-of-living crisis in half a century.
4, The problem of teacher wastage
Around a third of teachers leave within five years (DfE, 2022) and many teachers who complete their training do not even enter the profession, often citing pay and workload. Furthermore, according to our 2022 pay survey of members, 68% of existing teachers want to quit the job.
It is clear that unless we see a proper pay award for teachers, there is a serious risk of further stifling the country’s education recovery.
5, The independence of the pay review body is critical
We make no secret of our criticism of the contempt displayed by the Westminster government towards the independence of the pay review body.
We expect a clear assertion from the Review Body in the face of evidence that is now overwhelmingly in support of the need for recommendations that will secure recruitment, retention and the future competitiveness of teaching.
We maintain that there is a compelling case for a 12% pay award from September 2022, followed by 10% in 2023, and 8% in 2024 as part of a restorative programme. But it is clear that ministers want to see much lower awards and the Westminster government has been vocal in seeking to scupper any prospect of pay awards linked to inflation.
Continued attempts to freeze pay and to deliver below-inflation pay awards will be met with an outpouring of anger from teachers, and rightly so.
We will be stepping up our demands for a better deal on teachers’ pay if ministers fail to listen to the profession and invest in teachers.
Author: Dr Patrick Roach