Ministers are failing to invest in retaining those teachers who will be key to supporting the recovery that children and young people deserve, the NASUWT's General Secretary argues.
The Prime Minister has described plans to “level up and unite the country” as the “central purpose of his premiership”. Such pledges are ringing increasingly hollow for teachers in England as they contemplate the next academic year, a year which as a result of the Government’s pay freeze will result in their pay falling further behind the salaries of teachers in other parts of the UK and continue the real terms erosion to teachers’ pay in the last decade.
The pay freeze is a slap in the face to teachers who have faced the most challenging 18 months of their careers when they risked their own health and wellbeing in order to continue to educate and support children and young people.
And make no mistake, teachers are angry and demoralised at this decision and the contempt it displays for their hard work and the challenging reality of teaching.
The NASUWT launched a snapshot survey of members following the announcement on pay. 93% of more than 7,500 teachers who responded over the weekend following the announcement said they opposed the pay freeze, with nine in ten saying they did not think it was fair in the current circumstances facing the country.
87% said it will have a negative impact on their morale and half said it makes it less likely they will remain in the profession. 83% said they think it will have a negative impact on the recruitment and retention of teachers in their school.
More than seven in ten respondents (71%) said the pay freeze makes it more or much more likely they will apply for a job outside teaching and nearly a third (32%) said it makes it more or much more likely they will apply or plan for their retirement.
The Government is in danger of being complacent over teacher numbers. We may have seen a rise in the number of applications for ITT during the pandemic but experience matters. If existing and long-serving teachers are pushed to leave as a result of the decisions on pay schools and pupils will lose out on the important pedagogical knowledge and skills experienced teachers bring to the classroom, as well as the vital support and guidance they provide to new teachers.
One respondent to the survey summed up the general mood: “Public sector workers have endured pay freezes and reductions in pay in real terms over the last ten plus years. If it weren't for a genuine passion for education and the well-being of young people I think a lot of people would leave teaching. Give us a decent pay for what we do.”
Another respondent likened the Government’s approach to pay as akin to “filling the bathtub with the plug out”. The NASUWT has continued to challenge ministers over their failed experiments on teachers’ pay-from short term incentives to encourage new teachers, through to the use of performance related pay which has merely served to discriminate against, divide and demoralise teachers at a time when efforts to secure teacher retention ought to be the priority for the government.
A return to mandatory national pay scales, national pay portability and annual pay progression is needed to tackle the race to the bottom on teachers’ pay and rampant discrimination on pay.
It cannot be right that many teachers currently have no guarantees, however hard they work and however well they perform, about the pay award or pay progression they will receive.
Teachers are worse off now than they were more than a decade ago because of continuing cuts to their salaries.
Teachers are tired of being taken for granted by this Government, of being expected to accept yet another real-terms pay cut even as their workloads continue to mount and the challenges they face become ever more complex and demanding.
Creating prosperous and healthy communities depends on giving all young people equal opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to fuel their futures. Investment in teachers has to be seen as a central aspect of the Government’s levelling-up ambitions.
Teachers have stepped up to educate and support children and young people and they will be utterly dismayed that their efforts are valued so cheaply by the Government.
The Education Secretary has failed to deliver on the investment needed to deliver education recovery for pupils and he now risks a renewed teacher retention crisis in our schools that will further hamper efforts to secure the recovery that children and young people deserve.
Even the School Teachers’ Review Body, which had its hands tied by the Government, was at pains to warn in its latest report of “a severe negative impact” if the pay freeze lasts longer than a year. Our pay survey showed even higher numbers of teachers stating they would be more likely to leave teaching if the pay freeze lasted for two years.
But, once again, the Government has demonstrated utter contempt for the teaching profession by failing properly to reward teachers and by deliberately choosing to delay the release of the Pay Review Body report until the vast majority of schools have closed for summer break.
Ministers failed to deliver for pupils the levels of additional investment needed to support education recovery. Now they are failing to invest in keeping those teachers who will be key to supporting the recovery that children and young people deserve. This a moment of truth for the Government and it is time for the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary to demonstrate that they are on the side of children’s education.