Teacher pay

Pay rises will now cost schools £1.3bn, and 6 more STRB findings

The teacher pay review body also wants a bigger remit to investigate the whole teacher pay system amid ongoing issues with retention and recruitment

The teacher pay review body also wants a bigger remit to investigate the whole teacher pay system amid ongoing issues with retention and recruitment

22 Jul 2022, 17:24

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Unions have called on the government to formally publish the STRB's pay recommendation for teachers

The independent body that reviews teacher salaries wants a bigger remit to investigate whether the whole pay system works – saying “material change” is needed to address long-standing recruitment and retention woes.

The government upped its pay offer for senior teachers to five per cent from September following demands from the School Teachers’ Review Body.

Ministers originally proposed a three per cent rise, with bigger rises for new teachers to meet a pledge for £30,000 starting salaries.

However, schools will have to take the hit by stumping up for bigger pay rises. Details from 32nd STRB report, published earlier this week, suggest the extra pay increase will cost around £300 million more than envisaged.

It means pay rises next year will now cost £1.3 billion – accounting for nearly two-thirds of the extra school budget cash promised by government.

The pay settlement also comes at the end of term, after many schools and trusts have set their budgets for next year.

Here are 7 interesting findings from their report … 

1. Most of extra cash now eaten up by pay rises 

DfE analysis shows core funding to mainstream schools will rise by 6.8 per cent in 2022-23, under the government’s pledge to finally return spending to 2010 levels.

At the same time, underlying costs – such as the Health and Social Care Levy – are expected to increase by 1.8 per cent.

It means schools had scope to raise their spending by 5 per cent on average, or £2.1 billion nationally, before they faced a “net pressure”.

But the new pay rises will now cost schools nearly £1.3 billion next year alone. This is also before considering any rise in support staff pay, which is set separately, and any other increasing costs such as soaring energy bills.

The DfE’s original proposal – which would have averaged out at a 3.9 per cent teacher pay rise in the upcoming academic year – would have cost around £980 million.

The department has told the STRB that its original proposal “reflected an appropriate balancing of these factors and that any award above this level would not be responsible”.

The admission sets an interesting context for ministers agreeing to a higher pay level – without giving schools extra cash.

2. Ministers ignore calls to lock-in £30k starting salary promise

As well as a five per cent pay rise for senior teachers, the STRB was also keen to pen in a further three per cent rise in 2023-24. A multi-year deal supported long-term planning, it said.

They also said locking in a two-year settlement was “explicitly to exclude the possibility of any uncertainty of achieving the £30,000 starting salary”. The government has already rowed back on the promise once.

The STRB said a “limited-scope review mechanism” could be used to reassess the pay for senior staff should the economic plight worsen.

But government said it was only “appropriate” to only confirm teachers’ salaries for the next academic year, rather than two years as initially proposed. From next year, it will return to the usual yearly timeframe for the pay setting process.

3. ‘Material change’ needed to solve teacher shortages

In its conclusion, the STRB said more work was needed – above tweaking pay each year – to deal with the scale of recruitment and retention problems.

The government has consistently missed recruitment targets for secondary teachers, and recruited just 22 per cent of required physics teachers last year. Recruitment has also slowed more this year.

But the DfE’s own evidence suggested its original teacher pay rise plans would retain over 1,000 extra teachers per year from 2023-24 – equivalent to just a quarter of a percentage point reduction in the number of teachers leaving the profession.

“On a number of measures, teachers’ pay continues to fall below that of comparators,” the STRB stated. “We support the conclusion of a range of consultees that material change is needed to address this situation.”

4. Overseas teachers coming to country plunges post-Brexit

In 2020-21, 2,940 teachers who trained abroad were awarded qualified teacher status in England – a 24 per cent fall from the previous academic year (3,686). This followed a decrease of 17 per cent in 2019-20.

While Covid is likely to have played a factor, the report notes that the UK’s points-based immigration system introduced in January last year “may lead to further pressures on teacher supply”. 

It also notes however, that some overseas teachers are able to teach without QTS at academies and free schools, or in maintained schools for up to four years while they achieve QTS.

5. STRB now wants to review whole teacher pay system …

Setting out its future priorities, the STRB called for a “coherent [pay] framework” that “incentivises” teachers. It wants to undertake a review that would consider issues including whether the current framework “is optimal for recruiting and retaining school leaders” and how it could more fully “reflect the range of teacher and leadership roles”. 

It added that “best practice” suggests a review on performance-related pay progression should take place given the “belief of some consultees that [it] works poorly in practice”.

Another focus would be on flexible working and “seeking practical forms of employer support, including the option of changing, over time, the remuneration of teachers to better support positive trends in working arrangements in schools and to enhance the ability to recruit and retain teachers”.

6. … and wants to ensure ‘best practice’ on academy pay

Academies currently have pay freedoms, although many still follow the national teacher pay scales. Government wants all schools to be academies by 2030 under new reforms.

“Given the plans for further growth of the academy sector, we believe it would be valuable to explore what practical steps could be taken to enable the STRB to support the propagation of best practice across both maintained and academy schools,” the report states. 

It added that such work could ensure its recommendations were of “use to all schools, whether on a mandatory basis in maintained schools or an advisory basis in the academy sector”. 

7. But unions question STRB value

All the education unions were consulted for submissions to the review on teacher’s pay. 

One of the key points made by consultees included that the STRB should be able to “fully exercise its role and avoid being restricted by affordability considerations”.

“In oral evidence, several consultees said their members increasingly questioned the value of the Review Body process given these perceived constraints,” the report added.

Currently, the STRB must make recommendations based on the remit set by the government – which often includes only proposing pay rises that are deemed affordable under current budgets.


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