‘WE HAVE warned that the government’s planned pay freeze will inflict yet another real-terms cut to salaries, adding to the damage caused by below-inflation awards since 2010,’ teachers’ unions told the government this week.
‘It will further worsen teacher shortages because of the long-term impact on recruitment and retention.’
In their joint statement, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the National Education Union (NEU), and Voice Community, have called on the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) to recommend a pay award which will restore the value and competitiveness of teacher and school leader pay.
They state: ‘The government is out of touch with the profession and its position is not credible. Its attempts to use the impact of the pandemic to justify further attacks on pay, despite the huge contribution made by teachers and school leaders to the national response to the pandemic, have created enormous anger.
‘We are calling for the STRB to assert its independence by recommending the significant pay increase that is required to ensure that teacher pay is competitive.
‘We are also calling for a fairer pay structure to improve teacher retention with the assurance of mandatory pay points for progression in all pay ranges, and the scrapping of PRP (performance-related pay), as evidence suggests it has a negative impact.’
The ASCL’s General Secretary Geoff Barton stressed: ‘We recognise the pressure on public finances caused by the Covid crisis, but freezing the pay of teachers and leaders is a false economy. Not only does it send a terrible message to loyal public servants, but it will also damage staff retention and undermine the government’s mantra that education is a national priority.’
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman added: ‘School leadership is a demanding and important profession, as clearly demonstrated over the last year, and pay should reflect this. At the moment it doesn’t. The government needs to make the case for a decades-long career in teaching, and routinely freezing pay is no way to do that.
‘The recruitment and retention crisis continues unabated and the teaching and leadership supply pipeline is leaking at both ends. At present the government is failing to recruit enough new teachers whilst too many experienced teachers leave prematurely. A pay rise for school staff is long overdue.’
NEU Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney said: ‘Teachers and school leaders have suffered a decade of pay cuts in real terms, leading to serious recruitment and retention problems.
‘If the government gets its way yet more pay cuts will be inflicted on the profession. The STRB and government must respond properly to the profession’s united opposition to the pay freeze and PRP.’
Deborah Lawson, Assistant General Secretary of Community Union (Voice education section), said: ‘The pay freeze is a kick in the teeth for the nation’s dedicated teachers and headteachers, who have been working under extreme pressure during the pandemic, with more and more expectations placed on them.
‘It has had a damaging impact on staff morale. Teachers have not only provided education and care for vulnerable children and key workers’ children but have worked through holidays.
‘There’s already a recruitment and retention crisis, and we’ve heard many teachers and school leaders say they don’t have the energy to carry on and will leave the profession as soon as they can.’
The NASUWT Teachers’ Union is calling for schools and employers to utilise the army of supply teachers to support the phased return to school of more pupils from next week in order to better support smaller class sizes and physical distancing requirements, as well as assist in helping pupils to recover their education from the impact of the pandemic.
This would not only benefit the safety and education of pupils, it would also provide employment opportunities for the large number of skilled and experienced supply teachers, many of whom have been left facing financial hardship as a result of the Covid outbreak.
In tandem, the NASUWT is also calling on the Scottish government and COSLA to reinstate a system of financial support for supply teachers who are unable to access work as NASUWT research has found that half of supply teachers have had assignments withdrawn during the current lockdown and a further 14% have had their hours reduced.
Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said: ‘The Scottish government and employers have a responsibility to do all they can to make schools Covid safe. One of the main ways to prevent transmission of the virus is to maintain strict two metre physical distancing.
‘We have called for the introduction of rotas to assist in preventing overcrowding, but creating smaller class sizes through the recruitment of supply teachers would also help to assist in reducing contact between pupils.
‘Utilising supply teachers in this way to work with smaller groups would also help in providing more time and attention to each pupil as they work to recover their learning from the impact of the pandemic and could provide a win-win for both schools and supply teachers.
‘Significant numbers of supply staff are unable to work, have had work cancelled, or have drastically reduced employment opportunities. This is leaving hard working and dedicated supply staff facing increased financial uncertainty and hardship.
‘We do not believe there is a robust argument for the failure to continue the SNCT Supply Teachers Job Retention Scheme while the pandemic remains with us and continues to impact on supply teachers’ ability to access work.
‘It cannot be right that hard working and dedicated supply staff, who have been fundamental to ensuring that schools function during the ongoing pandemic, are being prohibited and excluded from financial assistance at such a critical time.’
- Commenting too on the Education Policy Institute report ‘Education Recovery and Catch-Up Support Across the UK’ Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, emphasised:
‘Rightly, support for educational recovery is now top of the educational agenda. But government rhetoric on such support is not yet matched by investment, and government has a poor record of responding to local need.
‘The problems created by the pandemic are as much to do with well-being as they are with learning, and centralised projects – such as the National Tutoring Programme – may not be the best way of dealing with them.
‘Investment is vital, but it must relate to realities in the classroom. No educational programme will be successful unless it is linked to measures on a massive scale to deal with poverty.’