Education unions have reacted with dismay after the education secretary, Damian Hinds, asked the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) to ensure its future recommendations consider whether they are ‘affordable’.

In a letter to the STRB, Mr Hinds asked the independent teacher pay body to give ‘careful consideration’ to affordability, and requested that the STRB should inform him of the steps they have taken to do so when reaching their recommendations for the 2019/20 pay award. Mr Hinds also asked the board to consider ‘how the pay award can best encourage high quality entrants to joint the profession and support their progression within the workforce’. He said he would issue an additional remit letter to the STRB ‘in the New Year’ asking the board to consider further questions around how the teacher pay framework could be used to aid recruitment and retention generally.

Last year the STRB recommended a 3.5 per cent pay rise for all pay scales. However, the government only implemented this for the main and unqualified teacher pay ranges. Extra funding was provided to schools to help cover this increase, but schools were required to pay the first 1 per cent of the rise from their existing funds. The additional funding was also allocated on a per-pupil basis, which left some schools with a funding shortfall.

Research released last week by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that ‘schools with a high-level of disadvantage or small class sizes’ were less likely to receive enough additional funding to cover the cost of their teachers’ pay rise, due to their often lower teacher-pupil ratio. The EPI report, Winners and losers from the Teachers’ Pay Grant, also found that some other schools with larger class sizes ‘are likely to receive more than they need to meet the cost of the pay rise’ and that, due to the 3.5 per cent rise not applying to all pay scales, ‘schools with a greater percentage of staff on the main pay scale tend to suffer’. This latter group of schools are often those with ‘fewer experienced staff members, and middle and senior leaders’.

Responding to the EPI report, Deborah Lawson, general secretary of the Voice union said: ‘This report highlights considerable variations and inconsistencies in funding and provides further evidence that the ‘additional funding’ for the teacher pay increase will not match the pay bill in many schools.  She added that the Mr Hinds latest letter to the STRB ‘seems more concerned with ‘affordability’ than addressing any of the multiple crises affecting schools.’ 

Commenting on Mr Hinds’ letter to the STRB Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders union, said ‘This is a very worrying letter. It already sounds as though the government knows it will not have sufficient money to fund a real-terms pay rise for all teachers again next year. The 1% public sector pay cap may be gone, but austerity clearly isn’t. In effect, the STRB will once again be impossibly constrained.’

Full text of Damian Hinds’ letter to the STRB: https://tinyurl.com/yagqyayr

EPI report: https://tinyurl.com/y97c5hzn

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