Schools in England say they face an acute crisis over retention and recruitment without a significant pay rise, as the country’s largest teachers’ union warned of a strike this fall without a deal of “further inflation”.
The threat came as new research shows that every 1% increase in salary gives a 2% boost to hiring graduates in high-demand disciplines such as science, math and technology.
Hiring of apprentices is down by 25,000 compared to last year and experienced teachers are leaving the profession at the fastest rate in more than a decade.
The National Union of Education, the country’s largest teachers’ union, sent Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, a clear warning that the government should support higher salaries for teachers “more inflation” or face strikes in the autumn. .
But Zahawi responded by saying new teachers will receive above-inflation raises in their starting salaries for the next two years, hinting that strikes would “risk undoing” the progress made by students recovering from the pandemic and the closure of schools.
The last national teachers’ strike was in 2016, by the NEU’s predecessor, the National Teachers’ Union. The combined action could lead to the largest joint industrial action since 2011, when the NUT and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the NASUWT and the National Association of Directors of Education went on strike over pensions.
Teacher and school leaders’ unions argue that the government’s submission to the independent School Teachers Review Body (STRB) last year is outdated after the sudden spike in the rate of inflation, with the price index to the consumer last month reaching 9.1%, the highest in 40 years.
The STRB makes recommendations on teacher pay after hearing presentations from the Department for Education (DfE) and unions, and is expected to report before the end of the school year next month.
In his December submission, Zahawi asked STRB to increase starting salaries for new teachers to £30,000, a commitment from the Conservative manifesto, over the next two years. But according to the DfE presentation, salaries for more experienced teachers and school leaders rose much more slowly, by between 2% and 3%, with all salary increases coming from existing school budgets.
The letter to Zahawi from the NEU Joint Secretaries General said that “inflation has increased dramatically” since its presentation to the STRB, while teachers’ pay has already been cut by a fifth in real terms since 2010, leaving average wages at their lowest level compared to national average earnings. in more than 40 years.
“It must respond to the new economic reality of double-digit inflation and the threat this poses to teachers’ standards of living. We encourage you to commit to raising inflation for all teachers. It is not enough to just propose higher raises for beginning teachers,” the letter said.
“We have to tell you that, in the event that you do not take sufficient action, in the autumn term, we will consult our members on their willingness to take industrial action. And we will strongly encourage you to vote yes.
“We can no longer sit idly by while we take down both education and educators.”
In response, Zahawi said, “We have proposed the highest salary awards in a generation for new teachers (16.7% over the next two years), along with more salary awards for more experienced teachers and leaders.”
The education secretary also reacted to the threat of strikes, saying: “Young people have suffered more disruptions to their education than any previous generation, and it is the vital work of teachers that is helping them get back on track.
“The last thing I, or any parent, wants to see is something that could jeopardize that progress. We will consider the salary recommendations of the independent salary review body in due course.”
NEU’s letter follows a similar demand from England’s other major teachers’ union, NASUWT, which said it would hold a nationwide strike vote if the government “does not deliver pay restoration for teachers”.
New research by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) found that the government’s pay offer and incentive schemes were “unlikely to result in an adequate supply of teachers in England in 2022.” -2025, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics”. and it would fail to recruit enough new teachers in physics and computer science.
The study estimates that a 1% increase in starting teacher salary, above non-teaching graduate starting salaries, would lead to a 2% increase in applicants for teacher training, suggesting that an increase in salary could improve recruitment and retention.
Jack Worth, co-author of the NFER report, said if teachers’ pay rises continue to fall below the UK average, it would be difficult to maintain the school workforce.
“DfE’s proposal to target higher salary increases for early-career teachers is sensible, but our analysis shows that the overall financing package is very likely to leave the sector without the new teachers it needs,” Worth said.
Louise Hatswell of the Association of School and University Leaders said the NFER report was “further evidence of the utter inadequacy of the government’s salary proposals for teachers”, with its real-term pay cut for experienced teachers and leaders. which will likely worsen retention and exacerbate teacher shortages.
“The underlying problem is years of salary erosion in real terms imposed by the government that has devalued the profession. This needs to be addressed through a significant improvement in wages across the board that reverses this downward trend,” Hatswell said.
“It’s pretty obvious that it’s impossible to raise educational standards if schools can’t hire the teachers they need.”
The government survey of the teaching workforce in England showed that 4,000 more teachers left the profession last year than the year before, with just 11% retiring of the 36,000 who left the state sector. It also found that vacancies were at the highest level since records began in 2010.
High school principals say they have struggled to find replacement staff this year, with figures showing a 14% increase in job postings this year compared to the pre-pandemic period.