Starting salaries for new teachers in England could rise to £30,000 within four years, the government has confirmed, as part of its plans to increase recruitment and improve the status of the profession.
The announcement by the Department for Education (DfE) that it will push for higher pay for newly-qualified teachers was revealed by the Guardian last week as part of the government’s “back to school” policy rollout, including increased funding for state schools.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary for England, will call for an increase of up to £6,000 a year for new teachers by the 2022-23 academic year in a letter to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), the independent panel that advises on pay and working conditions.
“I want the best talent to be drawn to the teaching profession and for schools to compete with biggest employers in the labour market and recruit the brightest and the best into teaching,” Williamson said. “Teachers should be in no doubt that this government fully backs them in every stage of their career, starting with rewarding starting salaries.”
The announcement includes the government’s commitment to fully fund higher payments into the teachers pension scheme, with the DfE saying that members would benefit from employer contributions of 23.6% on top of their salary towards their pension every year.
Forced academisation of schools
What is forced academisation?
“Forced academisation” describes how a state school in England is compelled to change its legal status from a school overseen by a local authority to that of an academy, and to accept new management by an academy trust.
How is it triggered?
Forced academisation is an order issued by the Department for Education (DfE). A school is forced to become an academy if it is “eligible for intervention” under law. The order is triggered by a school being classed as inadequate by Ofsted. Previously it could also be triggered by poor performances in exams but that condition was dropped by the education secretary, Damian Hinds, in 2018.
Do parents get any say in the matter?
No. Governing bodies, parents and councils get no input in the DfE’s intervention to force academisation. They also have no say in which trust the school is forced to join, meaning the chain may be based hundreds of miles away. Critics say this is a derogation of local democracy.
What happens to the school?
The school’s legal relationship becomes a contract between the trust that manages it and the DfE, cutting ties with local authorities. The school’s land and buildings are effectively leased to the trust. Head teachers are stripped of their autonomy, with budget and staffing decisions made by the trust. In most cases the school’s existing leadership is dismissed. The school’s governors lose legal responsibilities, and there is no requirement for trusts to consult with parents. Often the school is renamed and a new uniform adopted. The trust retains a proportion of the school’s funding for its administration and executive costs.
Does forced academisation improve schools?
There is little evidence either way. Previously, three-quarters of schools rated as inadequate by Ofsted later improved without forced academisation. The National Audit Office has concluded there is a lack of capable Mats able to improve schools in difficulty.
The increased pay and pension contributions form part of the £14bn in education spending announced by Williamson and Boris Johnson last week, with most of the increase directed towards core school funding.
But analysis by the Sunday Times suggests the bulk of the new money will overwhelmingly benefit schools in the constituencies of Conservative MPs, while those in deprived areas of London and the north of England will see little improvement. More specifically, the analysis found more than 93% of the schools receiving funding increases of more than £100 per pupil were in Conservative-held constituencies.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the pay increases for new teachers were “desperately needed” to improve recruitment.
“At present, the government is missing its recruitment targets every year, and a third of new teachers leave the profession before they’ve completed five years’ service,” he said. “That’s a crazy situation that needs an immediate remedy.”
The DfE said Williamson would also ask the STRB to look at the way teachers qualify for salary increases, including the use of progression pay points. “Progression will continue to be linked to performance ensuring the investment best supports the recruitment and retention,” the DfE said.
Mary Bousted, the National Education Union’s joint general secretary, said the government was admitting it was “bonkers” for each school to set its own pay policies.
“The NEU wants the government to go further and reinstate statutory progression pay points, in negotiation with teacher unions, so the pay system is transparent, open and fair and so that proper incentives are put in place for experienced teachers to stay in teaching,” Bousted said.
The DfE will also introduce a programme of “ambassador schools” to champion flexible working for teachers.
“We know that the lack of flexible working opportunities is often cited as a reason for leaving. Other sectors have embraced flexible working and the benefits it provides – I want to see the same in schools,” Williamson added.
Angela Rayner MP, the shadow education secretary, said: “After sitting at the cabinet table agreeing to years of real terms pay cuts for teachers, Boris Johnson and Gavin Williamson have finally admitted that austerity has failed our schools. But even now, teachers will have to wait years for the promised pay rise, and there is every chance that if there is a disastrous no-deal Brexit this will be yet another promise that isn’t kept.”