Unions to ballot members over teacher pay award

The NEU and ASCL will ballot members on strike action over the 5% pay rise, and joined three other unions in a joint statement condemning the “botched” award

Teaching unions have reacted angrily to the government’s teacher pay award for 2022/23.

Following recommendations from the School Teachers’ Review Body, the majority of teachers will receive a 5% rise, while starting salaries will grow by 8.9% to £28,000.

The 5% rise is equivalent to an increase of almost £2,100 on the average salary of £42,400.

“[The] pay award is part of the government’s drive to make sure there is an excellent teacher in every classroom across the country, helping ensure that wherever a child lives they have the quality of education and the opportunities they deserve,” said the education secretary, James Cleverly.

News of the award came in the same week it was announced that inflation has reached 9.4%, the highest figure for 40 years.

“Ministers have delivered yet another pay cut for teachers,” said Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).

“After 12 years of pay freezes, pay pauses and below inflation pay awards amounting to a 20% real-terms cut, teachers will be dismayed to hear that the government expects them to stomach the largest real terms cut to their pay.

“The government has still not delivered on its general election manifesto promise to increase starting salaries to £30,000, once again letting the profession down.”

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Roach called on ministers to commit to a “programme of genuine dialogue and negotiations” over a pay settlement offering a “better deal for all teachers”.

Although not making explicit mention of strike action, he added: “If the government hopes that teachers’ anger will dissipate over the course of the summer break, they are wrong. Their patience has been tested to the limit.

“The NASUWT will not stand by whilst teachers who have delivered so much for so many for so long are treated so badly by the government.”

The National Education Union (NEU), meanwhile, is further down the road towards taking industrial action. “Be ballot ready – reject the paycut” reads the splash on the union’s website, adding: “We have no choice but to hold the biggest ballot of teachers for a generation.”

Kevin Courtney, the NEU’s joint general secretary, said: “The government is attempting to impose another huge real terms pay cut, hitting teacher and school leader living standards hard when they are already suffering from the cost of living crisis. This will intensify the recruitment and retention crisis, damaging education.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said that his members would also be balloted on whether they wished to take industrial action.

The NEU, NASUWT and ASCL joined forces with two other teaching unions – the National Association of Head Teachers, and Community – to issue a statement condemning the “botched” pay award.

Teachers will be dismayed to hear that the government expects them to stomach the largest real terms cut to their pay – Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT

“This contributes to very severe teacher shortages which are affecting the vast majority of schools,” they said. “The government routinely misses its own targets for recruiting trainee teachers, and 40% of teachers leave the profession within 10 years of qualifying.

“Schools will have to foot the bill for the pay award from budgets which are already under severe strain. This follows a decade of real-terms cuts. The current funding settlement dates from last autumn and therefore does not take into account the massive hike in inflation now hitting schools.

The award is higher than the Department for Education itself deemed affordable in its evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body, so it beggars belief that it comes with no additional funding.”

The Confederation of School Trusts (CST) echoed the unions’ concerns.

“This pay settlement is not affordable within existing resources, especially in the context of unprecedented energy costs and other inflationary pressures for schools,” said Leora Cruddas CEO of the CST.

“It is essential that the government commits to a funded pay settlement. Without funding to meet this pay settlement, many schools and trusts will not be able to set a balanced budget.”

The education secretary defended the award, stressing the need to consider the wider economy.

“Pay awards this year strike a careful balance between recognising the vital importance of public sector workers, whilst delivering value for the taxpayer and managing the broader economic context,” he said. “The 5% pay rise for experienced teachers is intended as a responsible solution to both supporting teachers with the cost of living and the sound management of schools’ budgets.

“By contrast, double-digit pay awards for public sector workers would lead to sustained higher levels of inflation. This would have a far bigger impact on people’s real incomes in the long run than the proportionate and balanced pay increases recommended by the independent pay review bodies now.”

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