Independent Pay Review

On the list of the synonyms is: unconventional, maverick and free.

The Pay Review Body that will ‘recommend’ on a teachers’’ pay settlement for next year is ‘independent’ in title at least. However, its history and practice is well short of the word.

Last year (for September 2021) the Secretary of State directed in advance that there would be a temporary pay freeze. He asked that the PRB consider ways to make the career more attractive by increasing salaries below £24,000 by offering, perhaps, a £250 pay rise. After all their research and dialogue with interested parties and a good number of individuals the PRB recommended a £250 pay rise for the lowest paid only. The Sec of State agreed and that was that.

The year before DfE recommended to the PRB that entry pay rates should rise significantly more than later career pay rates. Despite the evidence, stated in the PRB’s report, showing that dropout rates from the profession was rising fastest in older age groups – from 35 to 45 years of age – PRB recommended an entry pay rise double the rate of that for experienced staff and school leaders. The Sec of State accepted the recommendations in full.

We can keep going back and find clear evidence of how this ‘independent’ body takes its direction from the Sec of State, agrees with it, applies it, recommends it and then returns the direction as a suggestion – and all as ‘independent’. In 2016, DfE and, unusually, the Treasury told the PRB that it should follow the national guidance and award / recommend an average 1% pay rise only. Despite the PRB in its response saying that 1% was clearly not enough to address growing issues of recruitment and retention it still ‘recommended’ a 1% uplift of the bottom and top of the main pay range. It gave the Sec of state exactly what she asked for.

I cannot help but feel that the PRB is anything like independent – it is clearly hamstrung and powerless. If it were to recommend above the DfE direction it would be unfunded, and the body has always recognised the difficulty this would pose for schools who all have limited budgets.

We have not yet seen the Sec of State’s remit letter for a pay settlement in September 2022, but I will be utterly flabbergasted if the PRB goes outside the boundaries suggested. It will not be maverick, free or unconventional.

Jim Royal would say something about ‘independent’.

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