STRB given 'flexibility' over 1% teacher pay cap

The body that advises the government on teacher pay will next year be given the “flexibility” to recommend an average rise of more than 1 per cent, the government has said.

Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, has written to Dr Patricia Rice, the chair of the School Teachers Review Body, with an update on public sector pay.

The STRB makes annual recommendations to the education secretary, Justine Greening, but can only recommend rises in line with the government’s current pay policy.

Average pay rises for public sector workers have been capped since 2011. But a growing crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, combined with increasing unrest over the austerity agenda has heaped pressure on the government to lift the cap.

Truss’s letter means that the STRB will be able to recommend an average rise of more than 1 per cent for 2018-19.

The minister says the government recognises that “more flexibility” on pay in some sectors is needed, particularly in “areas of skill shortage”.

However, it appears that next year’s pay award for teachers will be delayed by recent changes, including a move to an autumn budget.

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, announced earlier this year that the annual budget would be moved from the spring to replace the autumn statement.

This will, Truss admits, delay the STRB’s receipt of evidence on pay from the Department for Education. Instead of getting the information it needs in September, the STRB may now have to wait until December.

This will in turn mean that schools will wait for longer for the STRB’s recommendations and the final pay scales approved by the DfE. It could even delay the awarding of pay rises.

“I realise that the change in timing will impact on when the government can expect to receive your report and, as a consequence, on when individuals will receive their pay award,” Truss wrote.

“I recognise that this is far from ideal as our hard-working public servants are entitled to receive their awards promptly.

“However, given the importance of the process and the change in timing that has already occurred, I feel it is important we work to a later timeline rather than condensing the process.”

The intervention has been welcomed by the National Association of Head Teachers, but the organisation says any rise in pay must be fully-funded by the government.

“As the letter says, the government has recognised that depressed pay is contributing to a shortage of recruits and the ability to hold on to talented and experienced school staff,” said NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman.

“It is clear that a new approach to pay is needed. The STRB needs a remit that can look beyond a 1 per cent maximum and, crucially, all pay rises must be fully funded into school budgets otherwise they will be meaningless in practice.”