What to make of the pay review

Reading time: 3 minutes. Relevant member benefit: Education policy updates

Tom Middlehurst, Head of Policy and Public Affairs writes.

On 24 July, when many schools had already broken up for the summer, Damian Hinds confirmed the pay rise main scale, upper scale and leadership salaries for 2018-2019, with increased cash for schools to help pay for this. What are the details of the rise, what should we make of it, and what questions remain unanswered?

A welcome rise?

It’s great that teachers are getting paid more – 3.5% for main scale teachers, 2% for upper pay scale, and 1% for leadership – but it’s not nearly enough. For the last few years, teachers’ pay has risen below inflation – and with inflation currently just above 2%, for many teachers they will continue to have less spending power next year.

The independent STRB review recommended a 3.5% rise across the board, which would have valued experienced and dedicated teachers and the wonderful leaders who run our schools more fairly.

So while the rise may be a boost to more newly qualified teachers, and teachers entering the profession (and potentially incentivise recruitment), it does little to convince experienced teachers to stay in the classroom or take up leadership posts. Any teacher on the UPS or on leadership pay will, yet again, find they are less well off financially next year.

Funding the rise

The Treasury have refused to fund the rise, insisting that the DfE find the money themselves. The worry was that this would be passed on directly to schools, at a time when many are already warning of deficit budgets next year. Thankfully, this is not the case, and the DfE will make £508m available to schools over the next two years.

This, the DfE claims, will cover the difference between the 1% pay rise schools ‘should’ have budgeted for and the increase in each scale.

It is not clear where this money will come from, though. There has been much speculation that the bulk will come from money earmarked for school improvement – such as the SSIF and TLIF pots. If so, the DfE will be robbing Peter to pay Paul (or robbing Justine to pay Damian), in any event it will be vulnerable schools in need of support and intelligent intervention that will lose out. That would be a real shame for the system, and undermine the government’s articulated vision for schooling.

The 1%

Even with the redirected cash, schools will be expected to find a 1% rise across all pay scales themselves, not to mention the increased NI and pension contributions. It has been widely, and independently, reported that many schools are at breaking points – and even a 1% rise will be difficult for many to fund. Academies are not allowed to set deficit budgets for the year, but many are warning that this is a reality in the current climate.

Under plans announced last June, all schools will receive a rise in baseline funding of between 0.5 and 3% next year and the year after – but with inflation on goods sitting between 2 and 3%, and the need to find 1% more for salaries, this will barely scratch the surface.

It’s partly for this reason, coupled with historical and ongoing regional disparity, that the Worth Less Campaign (originating in West Sussex) was set up, and is encouraging fellow headteachers to join them in a day of protest on 28 September 2018. To get involved in the campaign or join in September, follow @WorthlessWS on Twitter.

Funding allocations

The DfE have not given details of how the pay rise funds will be allocated – whether across the profession, on an LA basis, or by school. If not done on an individual, localised basis, then schools that have a higher proportion of staff on main scale will lose out, and be forced to fund more of the rise themselves. Again, this would disproportionally affect vulnerable schools in disadvantaged areas, which are statistically more likely to have a higher turnover of staff, and more inexperienced teachers.

Until this is confirmed, it is hard for governors and senior leaders to budget accurately for next year, having already had the headline figures delayed until the summer break.

Future funding

The announcement has obvious implications for future baseline funding, and we sincerely hope that the rise will be accounted for in the baseline budgets for schools in 2019, and beyond. Again, the DfE must confirm this as soon as possible, so that school leaders and governors can budget accurately for future years.

Timelines and workload

Regardless of whether you think the rises are fair or don’t go far enough, the fact that the announcement was so delayed is unforgivable. Many SSAT member headteachers, principals and CEOs have already come back to me to confirm that they will have to work over the summer to revise their budgets, which will obviously involve their business managers and other senior staff.

Furthermore, any pay policies produced by the leadership/ executive team are unlikely to be able to be ratified by governors or trustees over the summer break, leading to further delays and uncertainties for teaching staff.

Just last week, Damian Hinds and Nick Gibb spoke about their genuine commitment to reducing teacher workload; the announcement this week shows that commitment to be hollow.

The teachers and leaders in our schools are dedicated and inspiring people who, despite contributing so much to society, have seen their real-term salaries decrease year on year. It’s time that the DfE, the Treasury and the Government show some serious respect for the profession.

Education policy updates

SSAT members can receive the immediate education policy comment from SSAT and other schools on the email group listservs. Gain access by getting in touch with your relationship manager at RMTeam@ssatuk.co.uk.

Read on the SSAT blog: Three keys to recruitment and retention

Follow Tom Middlehurst on Twitter

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