Government teacher compensation plans risk reducing the real conditions of experienced teachers

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Government plans to raise teachers’ salaries could lead to a reduction in real terms, according to a new analysis.

Last week the government called for teachers’ starting salaries to be increased by more than 16% over the next two years, to reach £30,000 by September 2023, which would fulfill one of the promises of the 2019 manifesto.

The DfE said in its submission to the School Teacher Review Body (STRB) that it wanted the statutory starting salary to rise by 8.9% this year and 7.1% next year.

But the proposed increases for more experienced teachers are lower, with increases of 3% in 2022 and 2% in 2023, equivalent to an average increase of just under 4% for all teachers, calculated the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

The IFS said that given rising levels of inflation, teacher pay proposals would result in a 5% reduction in real terms for more experienced staff between 2021 and 2023, although starting salaries would increase by 5% in real terms over the same period.

And because there has been a decade of pay cuts in real terms, the IFS said this equates to a 14% pay cut in real terms between 2010 and 2023 for experienced teachers.

For those at the top of the pay scale, which equates to around a third of classroom teachers, this equates to a pay cut of £46,000 to £39,000.

The IFS analysis suggested that the reduction in real conditions could be even worse, as there was “tremendous uncertainty about the true level of inflation following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions that have monitoring”.

His research argues that higher salary increases would be affordable under existing school funding regulations.

“A 5% higher average pay for teachers in 2022 (and 7% for other staff) seems affordable against the backdrop of a £4bn increase in school funding in 2022-23” , said the IFS.

IFS researcher Luke Sibieta said: “The government’s proposals for teachers’ pay in 2022 and 2023 would allow them to meet a clear commitment to raise starting salaries to £30,000.

“However, smaller salary increases of 2-3% per year for most other teachers are likely to represent cuts in real terms and would follow more than a decade of real pay cuts. There is also a risk that the highly unstable geopolitical and economic situation will push inflation even higher.

“While there are clearly significant pressures and demands on school budgets, schools need to be able to recruit and retain high quality staff to meet these challenges.

“An increase in school funding of almost £4billion in 2022 means there is room for higher pay in projected school budgets. Higher compensation than that offered by the government may carry less risk than lower compensation.

On Thursday, the IFS said Chancellor Rishi Sunak faced a “huge judgement” over whether to borrow billions more or allow households to cope with soaring living costs.

Without intervention, public sector workers face an average pay cut in real terms of around £1,750 due to inflation, while many households will struggle to pay their bills, the analysis finds.

Mary Bousted, co-general secretary of the NEU teachers’ union, said the research bolstered NEU calls for the pay cuts imposed on teachers and other school staff since 2010 to be restored.

“The IFS points out that public sector workers have suffered huge pay cuts in real terms over the past decade,” she said.

“In education, this has already led to significant recruitment and retention issues, as well as reductions in the standard of living for educators.

“Teachers and other educators are key workers whose contribution to the pandemic response has been immense; the government must protect their standard of living instead of continuing to reduce their wages.

“The real growth rate of Department of Education funding announced for the spending review period (2022-23 to 2024-25) is 2% per annum. This was already a downturn from the previous three-year period. The IFS estimates that a quarter of the increase in spending in real terms will be wiped out by inflation.

“The education sector is once again losing out.

“Teachers and other educators are already in the midst of a cost of living crisis even before the impact of rising inflation. They can’t afford further pay cuts, but the government can afford to invest in our public services, including education.

Ian Hartwright, senior policy adviser for head teachers’ union NAHT, said: ‘It is right that the DfE is suggesting a move to finally achieve the promised starting salary of £30,000. But after many years of real pay cuts, including this year’s pay freeze, all teachers and leaders need their salaries restored.

“The current suggestion of differentiated pay would mean that higher starting salaries for ECTs (Early Career Teachers) are essentially paid for by lower raises for experienced teachers and leaders, making the situation worse for experienced professionals. It would be yet another real pay cut for executives as inflation soars and is expected to rise further.

“8.0% and 7.1% over two years should be applied to all salaries, which would be a step towards restoring salaries to 2010 levels. Once again, the DfE does not take into account the many years evidence from the unions and the STRB.

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