Teachers' biggest union calls for 16.5% pay deal

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THE LARGEST teaching union today put in a bid for salary increases worth 16.5 per cent - four times the rate of inflation.

It called for starting salaries to rise from between pounds 11,184 and pounds 12,366 to pounds 14,000 for all newly qualified teachers, with pay for the top-of-scale classroom teachers to go from pounds 18,837 to pounds 24,000.

In its submission to the teachers' pay review body, the National Union of Teachers rejected the Government's aim of introducing performance-related pay. It also called for the abolition of incentive allowances, saying that they discriminated against women and failed to improve retention rates and motivate individuals.

The union also sought more cash to ensure a reduction in the time spent covering for sick colleagues.

Leaders of the union are aware that the Government's wish to tighten public spending makes it unlikely that teachers will receive such a substantial rise.

Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, said: 'The Government will tell us that now, in the middle of recession, is not the right time to increase investment in the service. For this government, the right time to invest in education never seems to come. For every child, now is the only time.'

Last year almost 400,000 teachers in England and Wales received a 7.5 per cent rise in the first pay round settled by the new review body.

The union's submission argued that the main burden of introducing extensive classroom reforms has fallen on teachers. They are working longer hours, suffering greater stress and many are leaving the profession.

It wants contractual changes, limiting teachers to attending a maximum of six parents' evenings a year. They should have a right to a one-hour midday break and at least 20 per cent of their day set aside for marking and preparation. Meetings of any kind outside the school day should be limited to one a week.

Class sizes, the union adds, should be limited by law to 26 pupils for most classes; fewer for young children and mixed-ability classes.

These improved conditions would require up to an estimated 50,000 extra staff.

The submission says that performance pay is 'entirely inappropriate' to teachers, because schools depend heavily on teamwork and co-operation 'which would be seriously undermined by the introduction of a competitive and disruptive' system.

In its report this year, the review body criticised the difficulty of identifying who is responsible - central or local government - for funding teachers' pay rises in full. The NUT subsequently commissioned its own research from Coopers and Lybrand, which concluded that it was impossible to assess the extent to which government grants to local councils accommodated teachers' pay increases. The accountancy firm recommended a specific teachers' pay grant.

The pay review body, chaired by the industrialist Sir Graham Day, is expected to make its recommendations to ministers early next year, with pay rises effective from April.