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Pay and recruitment failures risk national teaching crisis, unions warn

The country is facing a looming national teaching crisis as a direct result of pay austerity and staff shortages, six unions have warned in a joint submission to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB).

Representing the “full spectrum” of the profession in England and Wales, the unions have come together to warn of further pressure in teacher recruitment and retention, indicating a crisis – “not a challenge” – in teacher supply.

Both school budgets and teachers’ pay, frozen at a 1% rise in last year’s Budget, are at a breaking point, they argued, with cash cut in real terms having a knock-on effect on pay rises and national insurance increases from April.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies had already warned that spending per pupil is likely to drop by around 8% during this Parliament. If the government were to maintain the same pupil to teacher ratio at present, the number of teachers would have to increase by 30,000 until 2020, the organisation said.

But unions pushed further today, asking the STRB to recommend a “fair pay award” for the “highly skilled, important jobs” teachers do.

Deborah Lawson, general secretary of Voice, one of the signatories, said: “The erosion of teachers’ pay is causing real problems in attracting graduates into the profession and in retaining experienced teachers.

“The recruitment and retention crisis will intensify if teaching salaries fail to keep up with other professions. There is an increasing need for teachers yet, while student numbers are rising, schools are not able to recruit enough teachers even to replace those who are choosing to leave the profession because of the pressures of workload and poor career and salary prospects.”

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added that four more years of pay austerity is a “false economy”, and Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said slashing salaries would render the government hopeless in providing the thousands of extra teachers “needed over the next three years to cope with the projected rise in pupil numbers”.

In a response to the joint submission, the Department for Education – whose data was allegedly “failing to capture the scale of the crisis” in its data collection – said: “Unlike those who are constantly claiming there is a crisis and scaremongering, this government has worked with the profession to raise the status of teaching and is attracting the best and brightest to a career in the classroom, with the result that record highly qualified graduates and experienced career changers are now teaching in our schools.

“But we are determined to go further, and recognise that some schools find it harder to recruit the teachers they need, which is why we are expanding the great Teach First and Schools Direct programmes, and we are launching the National Teaching Service, which will mean more great teachers in schools in every corner of the country.”


Paul   11/01/2016 at 14:15

Over the past 5 years salary scales for teachers especially in FE have been cut drastically and many colleges have suspended increment payments as well. Pay rises in that time have ranged from zero to 1% at most. The work load and teaching hours have increased in that time as well. On the other side of the coin management in the sector has increased at an alarming rate. Their wages have also increased well above inflation in that time, as they are not linked to increments. I have never worked in the NHS, but everyone knows the mess that is in is down to poor mangement and education is now following the same route. Talentless people promoted several levels above their limited ability are ruining education and the NHS.

Stan   11/01/2016 at 16:59

Pay is certainly a factor. I looked into a career change to teaching last October and was shocked to see the so-called 'salaried school direct' training programme would only pay around £5,000. That's not a salary, surely, since it equates to an hourly rate below the national minimum wage. It would have required me to borrow money just to live had I pursued a new teaching career and there must be many people like myself put off by this obstacle. Another issue is that teacher training is largely limited to annual courses beginning in September. So a career changer has to find a way to fit in around that regardless of their individual circumstances. Also the whole UCAS process seems more geared up for new graduate applicants. There is a narrow window for the first round of applications in October, with a requirement for personal references to be completed in advance. When I made my application I was delayed by a late referee by a week, during which time all my local training providers withdrew their courses from the UCAS site. I grudgingly applied to a provider many miles from home. However, later I noticed that the closer providers were added back onto the UCAS site for 'Apply 2'. When I rang UCAS to ask about this they said I could apply to the closer providers under Apply 2 but I would have to reject the interview offer from the distant provider first... and there was no guarantee of an interview with a closer provider. In the end this silliness was enough for me to reconsider the whole career change. If the government are serious about recruiting career changers into teaching then they need to make it like any other change of career... so that people can do it without the obstacles of suddenly being faced with terminally low pay along with the inconvenient timing, location and process associated with the current annual UCAS/training provider based system. Unless these obstacles are adressed it will obviously always be easier to leave the profession than join it. It doesn't take a physics teacher to predict the impact of that.

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