14 Sep 2021
By Mark Richards,
The decision by the government to, once again, freeze teachers’ pay will have a ‘severe impact’ on the profession’s ability to attract new recruits according to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB). It has also been called ‘an absolute insult’ by headteachers and teachers’ unions.
It seems ridiculous to even try to counter-argue these points of view. The majority of teachers have just gone through one of hardest academic years in their careers. While few would ever ask for a ‘reward’ for this, a pay freeze will undoubtedly be seen as a kick in the teeth.
The teaching profession has worked flat out during the pandemic, adapting to a long line of government u-turns and hastily cobbled-together policy decisions. The way the government has acted in terms of decisions and policies affecting education has shown little consideration for the needs or concerns of young people. Indeed, you could even justifiably argue that the government has shown a blatant disregard for teachers themselves.
Of course, to teachers who have been in the profession for a few years, the latest pay-freeze decision will not come as any sort of surprise. It will just be seen as ‘more of the same’ and almost expected by many teachers, with an air of resignation. However, as the STRB are right to point out, a pay-freeze could have serious and long-standing consequences for the profession.
At a time when the teaching profession really needs to be competitive in trying to attract talent to the classroom, a pay freeze is hardly going to do much to attract or retain the high-quality graduates that are simply vital if pupil outcomes are to be improved – and if the attainment gap between the poorest in society (the children most affected by covid) and their peers is to be reduced. Anything that risks – as this decision does – worsening the teacher shortage is a massive mistake.
On a more practical level, with the announcement made as some schools had already broken up for the summer holiday, it not only smacks of discourtesy, it also makes budget planning extremely difficult for schools.
Based on the Treasury’s own predictions for inflation over the coming 12-months, a pay freeze represents a real-terms pay cut of 3-4%.
This latest blow could have a catastrophic impact. After all, it’s not as if recruitment and retention issues are new to the profession. Teaching has failed to attract or retain school leaders for several years now. Research carried out by the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) has found that not enough experienced teachers are now looking to make the step up to senior leadership positions. Even fewer are tempted to take on the responsibilities of headship. Indeed, the leadership pipeline that is necessary for progression is broken at all levels.
After a year where the teaching profession really has stepped up to meet the demands of educating children during the pandemic, the government really should be trying to support teachers in any it can. However, this pay award decision shows the government to be severely lacking once again.
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