Leading article: Regional pay is about more than equality

Evidence that GCSE results are suffering, should urge teachers to rethink their opposition

Share
Related Topics

Those opposed to plans to set public sector pay regionally, rather than nationally, tend to focus on concerns about exacerbating inequality. Were state salaries in the cash-strapped North to be frozen while their Southern counterparts continued to rise, the reasoning goes, then existing geographical divisions would only be entrenched yet further. The latest study of Britain's schools, however, turns the argument on its head – and heaps fuel onto one of the more combustible of the Government's policy proposals.

According to Bristol University's research, state secondaries in wealthier areas are struggling to recruit and retain teachers because national pay agreements do not allow them to offer more generous salaries to reflect higher local living costs. More troubling still, the situation is costing their pupils as much one whole GCSE grade.

The findings will be music to the ears of the Education Secretary. Tackling the (in his view) inefficient and iniquitous national pay scale is a central part of Michael Gove's reforms. And ahead of a report from the independent teachers' remuneration board this autumn, he has made clear his support for a more flexible approach including both regional differentiation and performance-related wages.

National pay agreements have already been significantly eroded. Both "free" schools and academies – which will account for half of all state secondaries by September – are able to set teachers' salaries themselves. Thus far, though, few have taken advantage of their new-found freedom, in part out of an unwillingness to provoke the teaching unions, in part out of institutional inertia. Only by tackling national pay more directly, Mr Gove has concluded, can he change the culture and introduce some much-needed competition.

In fact, it is not just teachers' salaries on the table. The Chancellor has his sights on similar changes across the public sector. But the plan has already run into the political sand – even while formal reports from various Pay Review Bodies are still under consideration – thanks to outspoken opposition from both Liberal Democrats and Tories with Northern constituencies.

Even more reason, then, to support Mr Gove's efforts in the education sector. Although critics' concerns about regional inequalities cannot be dismissed out of hand, the case in favour of flexible public sector pay is the more compelling one. After all, national wage levels result in inequalities of their own – with public sector workers in one area enjoying a standard of living wholly unaffordable to colleagues elsewhere. They also skew regional labour markets, pushing up private sector salaries and making life harder for local businesses.

It is perhaps fitting that the Education Secretary is leading the charge. As one of the Coalition's most ambitious reformers, instituting the biggest shake-up of the state school system for decades, he has proved his appetite for controversy. But with all three teaching unions already warning darkly of industrial action, it is on regional pay Mr Gove faces his stiffest opposition yet. It can only be hoped that clear evidence that educational standards – and pupils' lives – are suffering will encourage teachers to think again.

There are unintended consequences of which to beware. Schools in the most disadvantaged areas may need to pay more, for example, in order to attract teachers best able to deal with the significant challenges they face. But the caveats do not outweight the benefits. Providing the focus is on flexibility – allowing schools to set levels as they see fit rather than setting regional levels – Mr Gove's trailblazing proposals have much to recommend them.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea