Pay cuts hit private school teachers

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One in six teachers in independent schools have been forced to take a pay cut this year because of the recession, according to a report out today.

A survey of more than 1,400 teachers by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers reveals that nearly 16 per cent have had their salary reduced and a further 20 per cent faced a pay freeze.

It showed a three-way split in fortunes among private schools with 31 per cent of teachers saying pupil numbers at their school had fallen but a further third saying their school was thriving.

Day schools reported that they had increased their numbers as parents took their children out of boarding schools as they sought a cheaper option.

Several were offering incentives to woo parents at a time of hardship, such as discounts or deferred payments or even free laptops.

“In the tough economic climate the story in independent schools seems to reflect what is happening in the economy generally,” said Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL.

“Some schools are really struggling to keep afloat while others are thriving as they pick up pupils from schools that fold or as parents move their children to cheaper options.”

Dr Bousted, whose union has the largest number of private school members, added: “Our members working in these schools are realistic about the financial pressure schools are under and where necessary some reluctantly accepted pay freezes to help their schools survive.

“But schools must not use the recession as an excuse to cut salaries or worsen terms and conditions. Their staff are a key asset and they would do well to remember that.”

More than one in four teachers (27 per cent) said their terms and conditions were worse this year. In most cases this was due to working longer hours or having more children in their class. In addition, 28 per cent believed their school would have to make redundancies this year.

In all, 53 per cent of teachers said they were getting a lower pay rise than the 2.3 per cent offered to those in state schools.

The survey also revealed that one in five teachers said their schools were offering incentives to keep and attract pupils.

Discounts on fees or deferred payment schemes were the most common option.

The teachers also talked of falling numbers of boarders, a loss of pupils to selective state grammar schools , sixth-form colleges or state schools in general.

To keep up pupil numbers, schools were recruiting more overseas students – especially from the Far East or reducing their entry criteria.

One teacher commented: “Standards are falling due to having to take all-comers and we no longer have the benefit of selecting suitable candidates.”

Another added: “Our school is struggling financially in the recession. Staff salaries have been frozen since 2007-08.”

A third said: “Some pupils have left as parents are unable to afford fees – but a few have come from more expensive schools! (There is a) significant loss of pupils post-16 to big, free, state sixth form college.”