Unions: DfE must ‘fully fund’ schools to offer higher pay rises

Five teaching unions have urged the government to fund pay rises and reject the recent recommendation by the School Teachers’ Review Body to keep increases capped at one per cent.

The unions have written to education secretary Justine Greening this morning, saying she must “either” guarantee that raises are fully funded by the government, or that school budgets are increased so headteachers can afford them.

The letter is the formal response from the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the Welsh teaching union UCAC, and the Voice union to the STRB’s pay recommendations from earlier this month.

The recommendations, which the Department for Education accepted on July 10, included keeping annual pay rises for teachers capped at one per cent in line with the wider public sector pay freeze.

But the STRB’s report admitted the evidence submitted to them from schools and unions indicated “a strong case for an uplift in excess of one per cent”.

Nevertheless, it said it had “serious concerns about schools’ readiness to manage a higher pay award within their budgets”, and ultimately recommended keeping the cap.

Emphasising their consensus on the issue, the unions claimed that evidence from schools “overwhelmingly” demonstrates the need for pay to be increased “by significantly more than the levels now being recommended by the STRB”.

If the government continues to fund schools at this level, the teaching profession’s current issues with retention and recruitment will only “worsen”, the unions warned.

This week, Astrea Academy Trust in Yorkshire announced it was giving all staff a two-per-cent pay rise, which it can afford because of savings made due to its large size as a trust, and because academies are not bound by the cap, unlike local authority-run schools.

Initial teacher training targets have been missed for the fifth successive year, the letter noted, while the STRB’s own report made the point better pay is needed to attract the best graduates.

Greening’s recent announcement of an extra £1.3 billion for schools for two years from 2019-20 also makes “no provision” for the 2017-18 year in which the pay freeze applies, the unions said.

Transparency around pay in schools was also highlighted as a problem: the DfE has no way of monitoring how schools offer pay rises, and should collect “more robust information” to make sure staff are treated equally. The unions want this data collected every year and shared with them.

They also complained that this has been the second year running the STRB report was published “late in the academic year”, leaving an “unacceptably short timescale” for the sector to respond and for schools to prepare their budgets.

“We call on you to listen to the teaching profession,” they concluded.

“The STRB clearly shares our concerns about teachers’ pay and teacher supply, if not all of our conclusions.”

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