Schools in England say they are facing an acute crisis in terms of retention and recruitment without a significant pay rise as the country’s largest teachers’ union warned of a strike in the autumn without an “inflation plus” deal.
The threat came as new research shows that every 1% increase in pay gives a 2% boost to graduate recruitment in in-demand disciplines such as science, math and technology.
Recruitment of trainees has dropped by 25,000 compared to last year, and experienced teachers are leaving the subject at the fastest rate in more than a decade.
The National Education Union, the country’s largest teachers’ association, sent Nadhim Zahawieducation secretary, a clear warning that the government should support higher “inflation-plus” salaries for teachers or face strikes in the fall.
But Zahawi responded by saying new teachers will receive over-inflation increases for their starting salaries over the next two years, suggesting strikes would “risk undoing” progress made by students recovering from the pandemic and school closures.
The last national teachers’ strike was in 2016 by the NEU’s predecessor, the National Union of Teachers. Combined efforts can lead to the largest joint action since 2011, where NUT and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, NASUWT and the National Association of Principals all beaten over pensions.
Teachers ‘and school leaders’ unions argue that the government’s submission to the Independent School Teacher Assessment Body (STRB) last year is obsolete after the sudden jump in the inflation rate where the consumer price index reached last month 9.1%, the highest in 40 years.
STRB makes recommendations on teachers’ salaries after hearing from Department of Education (DfE) and the unions, and is expected to report before the end of the school year next month.
In his post in December, Zahawi asked STRB to raise the starting salary for new teachers to £ 30,000 – a conservative manifesto obligation – over the next two years. But DfE’s post caused salaries for more experienced teachers and school leaders to rise much slowerwith between 2% and 3%, where all wage increases come from existing school budgets.
The letter to Zahawi from the NEU joint secretary-general said “inflation has risen dramatically” since his STRB submission, while teacher salaries have already fallen by a fifth in real terms since 2010, leaving average salaries at the lowest level compared to the national average income. for more than 40 years.
“You need to respond to the new economic reality of double-digit inflation and the threat it poses to teachers’ living standards. We urge you to commit to a rise in inflation for all teachers. It is not good enough just to suggest higher increases for novice teachers,” was stated in the letter.
“We have to tell you that if you do not intervene sufficiently on your part, we will hear from our Members during the autumn period about their willingness to intervene. And we will strongly urge them to vote yes.
“We can no longer stand next to you while driving both education and educators into the ground.”
In response, Zahawi said: “We have proposed the highest salary rates in a generation for new teachers – 16.7% over the next two years – along with additional salary rates for more experienced teachers and leaders.”
The education secretary also responded to the threat of strikes, saying: “Young people have a little more disruption to their education than any generation that has gone before, and it is the vital work of teachers that helps them get back on track.
“The last thing I – or any parent – want to see is something that risks undoing that progress. We will in due course consider the pay recommendations from the independent payroll control body.”
The NEU’s letter follows a similar demand from England’s other major teachers’ union, the NASUWT, which said it would hold a national strike vote if the government “does not provide pay cuts for teachers”.
New research from the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) found that the government’s salary offer and incentive schemes were “unlikely to result in an adequate supply of teachers in the UK in 2022-2025, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics”. and would fail to recruit enough new teachers of physics and computer science.
The study estimates that a 1% increase in teachers ‘starting salaries, in addition to candidates’ starting salaries outside teaching, would lead to a 2% increase in the number of applicants for teacher training, suggesting that a pay rise could improve both recruitment and retention.
Jack Worth, a co-author of the NFER report, said that if teachers’ wage increases continued to lag behind the UK average, it would be difficult to maintain the school workforce.
“DfE’s proposal to target higher pay rises for teachers in early career makes sense, but our analysis shows that the overall economic package will still leave the sector short of the new teachers it needs,” Worth said.
Louise Hatswell of the Association of School and College Leaders said the NFER report was “even more evidence of the total inadequacy of the government’s salary proposal for teachers”, with its real pay cut for experienced teachers and leaders likely to exacerbate retention and exacerbate teacher shortages .
“The underlying problem is years of government-imposed real wage erosion, which has devalued the profession. This needs to be addressed by a significant improvement in wages in general, which reverses this downward trend,” Hatswell said.
“It’s pretty obvious that it’s impossible to raise the level of education if the schools can’t recruit the teachers they need.”
The government’s survey of the teaching workforce in the UK showed that 4,000 more teachers left the profession last year than in the previous year, with only 11% retiring out of the 36,000 leaving the public sector. It also found that vacancies were at the highest level since registrations began in 2010.
High school leaders say they have struggled to find replacement staff this year, with figures showing a 14% increase in job ads this year compared to the pre-pandemic period.