Teacher strikes

Keegan’s ‘final’ pay offer: What schools need to know

Union members are now voting on the offer, which leaders have described as 'inadequate'

Union members are now voting on the offer, which leaders have described as 'inadequate'

31 Mar 2023, 15:00

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Education secretary Gillian Keegan unveiled the government's final pay offer to teaching unions earlier this week

Further teacher strikes are on the cards after unions criticised an “inadequate” pay offer from the government, which they warn is not fully funded.

Gillian Keegan has said her offer of a one-off payment this academic year and a 4.3 per cent rise for most teachers next year is “final”.

Unions have put the education secretary’s offer to their members, but warned of further strikes and ballots if it is rejected.

Here’s what you need to know.

What has been offered?

  • A one-off payment in 2022-23
  • A 4.3 per cent rise for most teachers and 7.1 per cent rise in starting salaries in 2023-24 (averaging 4.5 per cent across the whole workforce)

The Department for Education (DfE) also made other promises

  • Removal of the statutory requirement to use performance-related pay
  • “Greater clarity” on when schools should expect their next inspection
  • Reinsertion of tasks teachers should not ordinarily be expected to do
  • A workload taskforce aimed at cutting five hours a week
  • Alignment of the school teachers’ review body process with the school budget cycle
  • A review of complaints procedures for parents and Ofsted’s complaints process for schools (these have already been pledged)

Is extra funding attached?

The DfE has said the one-off payment would be funded via a grant to schools, as will 0.5 per cent of the average 4.5 per cent pay rise for next year. Additional funding would total £620 million next year and £150 million the following year to cover ongoing costs.

However, the remaining 4 per cent of next year’s pay offer will have to come from existing budgets.

The DfE pointed to £2 billion extra funding for this year and next that was allocated in the autumn statement. In February, the government said schools could afford a 3.5 per cent rise.

But it has now revised down its estimate for the additional cost of energy bills next year, from £1.45 billion to £750 million.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said some of the cash to fund public sector pay deals would come from the Treasury, but it is not clear how much.

What have the unions said?

All four unions – the NEU, NAHT, ASCL and NASUWT – are consulting members.

The NEU, whose members began industrial action in February, has urged members to reject the offer in the “strongest possible way”. Leaders warned it was “not fully funded” and “insulting”.

If members vote to reject the offer, the union has said it will call two further days of action on April 27 and May 2.

NAHT, the school leaders’ union, has also warned that industrial action “will be necessary” if members rejected the offer. It said it did not believe that “sufficient funding is being made available to meet even this inadequate offer”.

The NASUWT is “not recommending acceptance” of the offer, saying it “falls short” of what it demanded on pay and other improvements.

ASCL has been more reserved, with general secretary Geoff Barton saying the union would put it to members “in a neutral capacity”.

Some schools will struggle more than others

Analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found school funding overall will continue to grow faster than costs, even if the new pay offer is implemented.

However, research fellow Luke Sibieta said costs would rise faster than funding in some schools, such as special institutions that relied on more support staff. This would also be a problem in London, where there were more inexperienced teachers whose pay would rise by more.

Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the NEU, warned that “using universal totals to speak to individual school leaders about individual affordability, is economic nonsense”.

The IFS has said that even with the pay offer, salaries for experienced teachers would be 13 per cent lower than in 2010.

The government said that its offer was above the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) 2.9 per cent forecast for inflation at the end of this calendar year. But unions warned higher prices were already baked in for teachers and schools.

What happens now?

Unions are expected to say next week whether their members accept or reject the offer.

If it is rejected, the government has said it will revert to the school teachers’ review body process, pointing out this will only consider pay rises for next year.

“If we don’t have this agreement, we’ve done our best,” Keegan told Sky News.

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  1. It seems pretty obvious that the woefully inadequate offer is deliberately done so that when it is refused educators can yet again be scapegoated as the ones at fault. As the only mechanism workers seem to have to bring people to the negotiating table appears to be strike action, it is inevitable that further strikes will have to go ahead, or those people fighting for more funding for schools will have to abandon the fight. If they strike the government will point the finger and say “ooh, look at how those people are threatening your childrens education” completely ignoring the effective funding cuts over the last 12 years they have been in power. This coming from an education secretary who refused to talk until strike action was taken, who cares so little for children she voted against the free meals for children from impoverished backgrounds and who openly admits to hating the idea of workers having a voice, (her dislike of unions is well documented). I suspect teachers will once again be the “unreasonable” ones, after all, if they’ve had 12 years of effective pay cuts, what is one more year? If funding has effectively been slashed for 12 years and the government have kindly offered a funding increase now, (to effectively put it back to where it was, bless them), schools should be happy funding is being increased and stop moaning! In essence, the Government are trying to stoke tensions between teachers and parents and try to appear as the reasonable voice in the argument. It has, after all, worked before, and I suspect they are hoping it will work again.