Schools at risk if teachers' pay continues to fall, say unions

Teachers' organisations warn crisis will deepen if pay continues to be squeezed, making teaching a less attractive career

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Six teachers' organisations have combined to warn of a national recruitment crisis in schools which has led to hundreds of thousands of pupils being taught by staff not trained in the subject they are teaching.

They add that the squeeze on school budgets is leading to bigger classes and a reduction in subject options for key GCSE and A-level exams.

In a statement to the profession's pay review body, the six - four representing classroom teachers and the country's two major headteachers' organisations - warn the crisis will only deepen if teachers' pay continues to be squeezed - making it a less atrractive a career to new graduates than other occupations.

""If teachers' salaries continue to fall in real terms, the Government stands no chance of recruiting the extra 160,000 additional teachers needed in the next three years to cope with the predicted rise in pupil numbers," said Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

"The numbers applying for initial teacher training course are rapidly declining and more teachers left the profession last year than in any previous year so  - unless the teachers get a significant pay rise - schools will have to start increasing class sizes or shutting the subject options available to students."

Core subjects such as science and maths have been the hardest to recruit to - as rival occupations have increased salaries to make them more competitive.

Teachers' pay rises have been limited to around one per cent for the past five years - and face a further four years of pay freezes.

"Headteachers across the country are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit staff because teachers' salaries are becoming less and less competitive," said Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.  "Years of pay restraint are now extracting their toll."

Chancellor George Osborne pledged to maintaining education funding for five to 16-year-olds in his recent comprehensive review statement.  However, the promise for 16 to 19-year-olds - although more generous than previously  - was only to maintain the budget.

Schools argue that they need rises above the level of inflation to cope with items like increased national insurance payments and pension contributions.

The six unions involved in today's statement are the National Union of Teachers, ATL, the Association of School and College Leaders, the NAHT, Voice - the "no strike" union set up in days of teacher militancy in the 1970's - and UCAC, the Welsh teachers' union.

The statement warns the School Teachers' Review Body that government resources for education are threatening to undermine standards of education, and urges the review body to accept "we are facing a national crisis not a 'challenge' in teacher supply".

"More children will be taught by teachers not qualified in the subject they teach," it adds. "The Department for Education data fails to capture the scale of the crisis."

"The erosion of teachers' pay is causing real problems into recruiting graduates into the profession and in retaining experienced teachers," said Deborah Lawson, general secretary of Voice.

A spokeswoman for the DfE accused the teachers' organisations of "scaremongering", adding:  "This government is working with schools across the country to make sure they have the brilliant teachers they need to make sure every child gets the support in life they deserve".

Record numbers of highly qualified graduates were being attracted to the profession, the spokeswoman argued.

She acknowledged that - despite this - some schools were finding "hard to recruit the teachers they need". To this end, the Government had extended the Teach First initiative - which attracts the best qualified graduates into teaching - and Schools Direct - which allows for teachers to be trained on the job - to every region of the country.  In addition, it was setting up a Natonal Teaching Service - which would direct newly qualified teachers to the areas of the country where they were most needed.

Comments