Teachers’ Pay

  • Since 2010, successive Governments have subjected teachers to continuous pay freezes and pay caps, cutting their pay by some 15% - despite rising earnings elsewhere in the economy.
  • In its 27th Report (2017), the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) concluded that action was “required now to make the teachers’ pay framework more competitive”, noting that real terms pay cuts were adversely affecting teacher recruitment and retention; that average starting and profession-wide salaries were considerably lower in teaching than in other graduate professions; and that the overall recruitment target for Initial Teacher Training was missed again in 2016/17 – the fifth year in a row in which this had happened.
  • In July 2017, the Conservative Government accepted the recommendations of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) for 2017-18 and applied a 2% increase to the statutory minimum and maximum of the main pay range but only a 1% increase to the minima and maxima of all other pay ranges in the national pay framework, including allowances.  Teachers on the minimum of their ranges must have their pay level increased by the relevant percentage; but schools have discretion over how to apply the increase for other teachers, so there is no guarantee all teachers will receive even the 1%.  The NEU – along with ASCL, NAHT, UCAC and Voice – has published joint union advice on teacher pay scales for 2017-18, advocating the retention of the previous structure of pay scale points with the appropriate percentage increase in each pay range.
  • These increases have been incorporated into the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions document for September 2017. Although the STRB broke the Government pay limit in its recommendations, and the Secretary of State agreed to accept these recommendations, even a 2% increase is well below inflation so means continuing cuts in the real value of teacher pay. 
  • In its previous report, the STRB said that “an uplift to the pay framework significantly higher than 1% will be required in the course of this Parliament”.  This has not been achieved, especially since the STPCD now does not require schools to adopt or increase pay scales or provide teachers with a pay increase individually.  The STRB also noted that schools are operating in a climate of funding cuts and rising costs, but failed to recommend that any increase in funding should be provided, saying that the costs of its recommendations on teacher pay were for schools to implement in accordance with their pay policies and within the funding available. 
  • As the Government continues to hold teachers’ pay below the level of inflation, workload and stress are increasing and funding cuts are leading to higher class sizes, cuts in resources and cuts in staffing. Graduates are turning away from teaching as a career and serving teachers are leaving in increasing numbers (see the Edufact on teacher recruitment and retention).
  • Analysis of Government figures by the Labour Party in September 2017 found that teachers were more than £5,000 a year worse off than in 2010 due to the public sector pay squeeze – a figure supported by the pay loss calculator on the NUT section of the NEU website.
  • Alongside pay cuts, the Government has dismantled the national pay system for teachers. It has ended fixed national pay scale points, extended performance related pay (PRP), removed pay portability and implemented school-based pay determination.
  • The national pay scales, setting out the year-on-year pay progression that teachers can expect, have been replaced by a structure which only sets minimum and maximum rates that schools can pay their staff.  Graduates considering teaching no longer have any certainty about pay; teachers in service may find that their pay progression has slowed down or even halted.
  • An Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report published in February 2017 warned that teaching as an occupation is likely to face “significant challenges in recruiting sufficient numbers of highly qualified teachers over the next few years, particularly in the light of the ongoing squeeze on public sector pay”.1 It also expressed concern that, according to the National Audit Office, the Government was missing teacher trainee targets by increasing margins over time.
  • All pay progression is now linked to performance, something the NEU has always opposed (see EduFact on PRP in Schools). The new stronger links to performance and individualised pay decisions have led to many teachers being denied progression, often on spurious or even discriminatory grounds.  Moreover, the 2016 NUT/ATL joint pay progression survey found that 15% of respondents who were denied progression were explicitly informed that pay progression had been withheld for budgetary rather than performance reasons, confirming that many pay progression decisions are not being taken with reference to standards of performance at all. 2
  • The removal of pay portability means that teachers are no longer entitled to keep the progression they have earned through experience.  When they move schools they now have to renegotiate their pay.  Many tell us they are now less likely to consider moving schools as a result.  Teachers on career breaks - mainly women – are likely to be hit hardest of all as they try to re-enter teaching.  Even if they stay in the same school, obstacles can be placed in the way of their pay progression.  In one case, a teacher’s attendance at an ante-natal appointment on a day originally scheduled for a lesson observation resulted in her pay progression being denied, in clear breach of equality legislation and the DfE’s own guidance.
  • The NUT/ATL joint survey on 2016 pay progression decisions also found that BME teachers were once again more likely to have been denied progression than white British teachers, and that part-time teachers (who are more likely to be women) were more than twice as likely to have been turned down as their full-time counterparts.
  • Instead of being able to focus on supporting and improving teaching and learning, heads and governors now have to waste time each year negotiating pay structures and pay rises with every teacher. Governing bodies face being tied up with appeals against pay determinations and claims of race and sex discrimination. 
  • The NEU will continue to oppose the Government’s existing changes to teachers’ pay and will robustly resist further attacks.  The NEU, along with ASCL, NAHT, UCAC and Voice, has published joint union advice on teacher pay scales for 2017/18, advocating the retention of the previous structure of pay scale points with the appropriate percentage uplift in each pay range.
  • At a time of a crisis in teacher supply and a buoyant graduate recruitment market, the Government needs to do much more to make teaching an attractive profession. The Union has repeatedly warned that, if the Government continues its strategy of below-inflation pay awards for teachers, thereby cutting the real value of pay and reducing its competitiveness, teacher supply problems will persist and the quality of education provision will decline.
  • The current evidence on teacher pay, teacher supply and teacher morale reaffirms our view that teachers’ pay levels need to be increased significantly.  The NEU, along with ASCL, NAHT, UCAC and Voice, are calling for an immediate, fully funded, 5% pay rise for all teachers.  In a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, sent in November 2017, the unions set out their concerns about the adverse impact that teachers’ pay is having on teacher supply because pay levels have fallen behind that of other graduate professions.  After seven years of real terms pay cuts due to the Government’s public sector pay policy, unions want the Government to make a significant pay increase for all teachers and school leaders.
  • Further information about the NEU’s policy on teachers’ pay is available at www.neu.org.uk.

1IFS Report: The changing educational attainment of graduate recruits to major public sector occupations OME, 2017 [online].  Available here.

2 NUT/ATL: Pay progression (September 2016) Report.  See https://www.teachers.org.uk/pay-pensions-conditions/pay

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