Election 2024

Teacher pay response won’t come before election, Keegan confirms

Education secretary tells unions government 'will not be able' to publish STRB response until after July 4 poll

Education secretary tells unions government 'will not be able' to publish STRB response until after July 4 poll

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The government will not publish its response to recommendations on teacher pay before the election on July 4, Gillian Keegan has said.

In a letter to unions, seen by Schools Week, the education secretary said “all government decisions, including a response to the [School Teachers’ Review Body’s] recommendations, will need to be carefully considered in light of the sensitivity of the pre-election period”.

“The government will publish its response in due course, but will not be able to do so during the pre-election period.”

Shortly before prime minister Rishi Sunak called the election last week, leaders of the National Education Union, NASUWT teaching union and NAHT and ASCL school leaders’ unions called on the government to “immediately” publish its pay and funding offer.

Ministers had pledged to speed up the pay-setting process, with announcements having come right at the end of the summer term in recent years, throwing school budget-setting into turmoil.

But the timing of the vote in early July prompted fears that the decision could be left up to whoever forms the next government, because the pre-election “purdah” period, which began on Saturday, prevents most announcements from being made.

‘Abdication of duty’

Daniel Kebede
Daniel Kebede

Now those fears have been realised, leaving a potential incoming Labour government facing a tough decision that could put it on a collision-course with unions on day one.

Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the NEU, accused Keegan of a “shameful abdication of duty”.

“The STRB process should have been concluded by now, as per the terms set by Keegan following last year’s [pay] dispute. School leaders absolutely need to know what pay award to budget for. Teachers deserve to know what pay to expect in September.”

He said the conduct was “symptomatic of a failed government, in its death throes, that has spent 14 years eroding comprehensive education”.

“This is an unbelievable act of cowardice in leaving the issue of teacher pay in the in-tray for a new government. The STRB report has been on Keegan’s desk for a fortnight. There is no excuse to not have published it in full.”

‘Extremely frustrating’

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of ASCL, said the letter “confirms what we had feared”.

Pepe-Di'Iasio
Pepe DiIasio

“It is extremely frustrating because it means a long delay before schools have any degree of certainty over their costs next year. Schools just cannot plan their budgets under these circumstances.”

He said the situation had “become par for the course because the government has got into an unacceptable habit of making decisions over teacher pay far too late in the day”.

“The next government must act quickly on taking office to agree a pay award that addresses teacher recruitment and retention challenges and which is fully funded so that schools can afford it. And it must commit to making decisions in a much timelier manner in the future.” 

Paul Whiteman, of the NAHT, said it was “disrespectful to the profession to withhold this information, and the government should have published it before we entered the pre-election period”.

And Patrick Roach, leader of NASUWT, said “instead of allowing the pay review body to get on with its job, the government has engaged in a strategy of delay, stonewalling and interference”.

“This government has run out of time to fix the recruitment and retention crisis it created.”

The DfE was approached for comment.

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One comment

  1. Sir Craig Tunstall

    Zero surprise. They can’t be trusted with anything at all – GET THEM OUT. The legacy they will leave behind is utterly worthless in education terms. And we can thank Michael Gove for a sizeable part of that chaos. Utter pond life!