Pay rises (for teachers)

The education news this week has been heard before, and I’m pretty sure I have written about it previously on these pages;

  • Covid-19 outbreaks and schools’ responses,
  • changing guidance,
  • potential mental health impact and response,
  • obesity and the effectiveness or otherwise of strategies in response,
  • cycling and other green means of travel to school (and other work places),
  • funding inequalities and a ‘fair funding formula’.

It’s true that I’ve never written about ‘teachers’ pay rises, and this has been in the news this week; the Secretary of State accepted the recommendations of the independent pay review board and so teachers will receive, eventually, a pay award of 3.1%.

Well, no; not quite.

There seems to hardly ever be decisions or issues that are that simple – the only one I ever come across is when the fire alarm sounds: we all get out of the building, no matter what we are doing. Everything else is far more complicated and layered.

There will be delay as various levels of responsibility and accountability either refuse to make a decision or are not in the position of authority to make a decision:

The local authority is not the employer in academy schools and so it has absolutely no power to set pay levels there.

The DfE decision will set a minimum – not a fixed point - so someone else has to decide what that is.

Local authorities will want there to be pay equality across the maintained school sector, to avoid claims of unfair pay, so they will want all Governing Boards to set the same pay scales / ranges. But as each Governing Board is separate they make separate decisions, so there is a risk of difference.

A school that has the cash and the need to attract staff might consider going it alone and setting higher rates in order to attract more or better applicants.

Las are not supposed to instruct the individual Governing Boards on what their pay policies and scales / ranges should be, but as I said above they still want them to be the same.

HR services merely advise; they do not set policy or guide in that way, so asking them each year, as I do, is fruitless.

So LAs say ask HR, HR say ask the LA or Trade Unions, and Trade Unions, funnily enough, say ‘implement it in full and as high as it can be done in the framework set’.

Payroll is not supposed to start paying it until authorised and directed by each individual school – so it certainly won’t happen in September’s pay check (as the first GB meeting next academic year is not until October).

Then there’d the little matter of detail and the devil; it is not a blanket ay rise at all.

That 3.1% is an average of some sort. (I don’t know if it’s mean, mode or median, and I very much doubt that whatever sort of average it is it will not be so for each school as the teacher profile is considerably different in any set of schools. We have most of our staff at the top of their relevant pay ranges as they are experienced in their roll.)

Some (maybe only one) of our teaching staff will get a 5.5% pay rise, and the rest may get 2.75% as the top of each pay range is going up by that much.

I won’t say ‘no’, obviously, and I will happily accept any rise agreed and awarded.

The slightly galling part, and slightly concealed, is that there is no ‘new money’ to cover the cost to schools – the ‘historic’ rise in school funding that seeks to ‘level up’ funding in poorer-funded areas will have to meet the cost of this pay award, recognised and agreed in full by the Secretary of State and the Chancellor on the back of the profession’s heroic efforts during response to the Coivid-19 pandemic.

As usual it has been announced in the summer holidays (it is simply the annual timetable of things, I have never thought it convenient that teachers cannot gather to protest or have admin staff crunch the numbers to see the impact until schools return, and then the steam has gone out of the situation). We will know how it impacts on our school budget (that was looking good enough for us to have engaged an extra Teaching Assistant, an extra day a week of teacher time, a shed-load of learning resources and a couple of thousand pounds worth of new chairs (for classroom use by Year 6 children). These were good decisions at the time – and hindsight would only be of use if you could utilise it before events.

This story, too, is not new – all I have described happened last year as well, and the year before, and so on, back to the years when there was no pay rise. So again, it isn’t really ‘new’ new news.

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