Why advocate for an increase in teacher compensation

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak is reviewing the many competing offers to secure funding as part of the government’s spending review this fall and to chart the direction of government spending over the next three years.

Teachers have a strong case for arguing that a series of highly competitive salary offers should be a key part of these spending plans. To achieve this goal, the industry must advocate vigorously and with a united voice.

However, this approach should be about logic and not about emotions.

Of course, teachers and their representatives may be tempted to make an emotional case for a pay rise. The view that teachers have gone through a rough time during the pandemic and deserve a pay raise for their hard work and dedication to young people is heartwarming – and true.

But such a case may not be the most productive in negotiations with the Treasury.

Instead, the case for improving teacher remuneration must be based on the risks of inaction on the supply of teachers and the negative consequences for young people and, therefore, the future prosperity of the school. country if current teacher recruitment issues are not resolved.

This may not seem like the right time to use this argument, as recent talk about teacher supply has been positive about the impact of the pandemic-induced economic cripple on workforce recruitment and retention. work with an advantage over education.

After all, more and more teachers have stayed in their jobs and graduates have applied in record numbers for the opportunity to undergo teacher training, seeing it as a stable career opportunity in a world where nothing has happened. certain for the future.

Why the case for teacher salary increases needs to be done now

Given this, why is there a need to push for salary increases for teachers, especially those entering the profession as new teachers?

In short, because when the expenditure review begins, the terrain of teacher supply has again radically changed.

The broader labor market has come back to life, faster than expected. In the spring, economic forecasters believed the labor market might not return to normal until around 2024.

But now they think it’s already back: Job vacancies in the economy are higher now than they were before the pandemic.

And there are signs in the recruitment data that applications for teacher education have declined as a result.

Go in the wrong direction

This summer, the rate of new claims even fell below the pre-pandemic years (see graph below). In addition, some of these applicants may not begin their course if they have found another preferred career option in the meantime.

This situation, which continues next year without any corrective action, risks bringing us back to square one, if not worse, on the issue of teacher training, recruitment and retention.

It therefore renews the arguments in favor of funding to be allocated to solving teacher supply problems before a major challenge arises.

A quick fix should include resuming short-term measures such as stock exchanges in risky subjects such as English, Biology, and Geography, where our modeling suggests they could drop by 5, 20, and even 30 percent. below their recruiting targets this year. respectively.

More broadly, however, it should also include relaunching the longer-term plan to place teachers’ salaries on a more competitive basis compared to other professions.

In particular, especially since the state of public finances is likely to limit the amount of money that can be allocated to teachers ‘remuneration, the plan to increase teachers’ starting salaries faster than the top points of the salary scale should be given priority.

NFER analysis of UCAS data

This is one situation that no one can claim not to have seen coming. After all, the competitiveness of teacher pay has steadily declined over the past decade due to austerity, and has undoubtedly contributed, at least in part, to the problems of recruiting and retaining teachers.

This lack of competitiveness leaves the attractiveness of education in a weak position to respond to the rebound in the rest of the labor market, which could worsen the situation.

The risks this poses were summed up bluntly by the School Teachers‘ Review Body when it stated unequivocally in July that “a pay break of more than a year for teachers is likely to have an impact. serious negative on the competitive position of the teaching profession, undermining efforts to attract and retain the high quality graduates needed to improve student outcomes ”.

All of this underscores why the argument for increasing teachers’ salaries needs to be argued strongly with the government – and quickly.

It can certainly be done – by framing it around the government’s own priorities for spending scrutiny that would justify why increasing teacher salaries will not only benefit teachers who have worked beyond during a pandemic, but for the good. long term of the country.

1. The supply of teachers is fundamental to providing strong public services

Attracting and retaining enough high quality teachers in schools is essential for the proper functioning of the education system, just as having enough doctors and nurses is crucial for the functioning of the NHS.

The re-emergence of teacher supply challenges threatens the ability of the education sector to improve youth outcomes.

2. The supply of teachers is the key to recovering from Covid and “building it back better”

The government’s response to the resignation of Education Resumption Commissioner Sir Kevan Collins, following the initial rejection of his Covid takeover proposals, has been to postpone decision-making on some of the more costly items (per for example, the extended school day) to the expenditure review.

This means that the demand for improved teacher compensation is being considered alongside other offers to fund Covid recovery strategies.

The Treasury may be tempted to view these offers as competitors for scarce funding.

However, an adequate supply of teachers is a necessary condition for a recovery strategy to be effective. Luke Sibieta says extending the school day will be more effective when it “builds on existing and well-trained staff” and is “integrated into existing classes and activities”.

The pandemic has not taken away the high workload of teachers, so asking for more information from the existing teaching workforce risks failing the recovery effort, as well as exacerbating the problems of teachers. supply of teachers leading to greater attrition.

3. The supply of teachers is essential to “take it to the next level”

If teacher supply problems set in again, the impact will be most felt by schools in the most disadvantaged areas. Research shows that these schools have more difficulty recruiting and retaining staff, which means that they lose the most when the national supply runs out.

The supply of teachers is essential to the upgrading program as it is an essential element in ensuring that children from disadvantaged areas and family backgrounds have access to a high quality education and are able to acquire skills. and flourish.

4. The supply of teachers is essential for future economic growth.

The government has the ambition to improve economic growth, fueled by investments in science and technology.

Today’s schoolchildren are the workforce of tomorrow, so the supply of these skills can decline without young people being taught by teachers specializing in these important subjects.

If the supply of teachers were to become problematic again, it would be Stem subjects such as physics, chemistry and mathematics that would suffer in the first place.

Revisiting the introduction of specific policy measures to target improvements in the recruitment and retention of Stem teachers – such as the tested system but then abolished early career payments – must be part of the strategy to secure future supply. teachers in all subjects.

In short, the government must allocate the necessary funds to improve the competitiveness of teacher remuneration and strengthen the supply of teachers, which is again running out of steam.

The sector needs to make a strong case now and articulate it in the government’s own terms – that way it can actually sit down, take note and act. It would not be less than what the sector deserves.

Jack Worth is Chief Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).


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