Ministers – ‘concede’ schools staff crisis caused by austerity and teachers’ pay
TruePublica Editor: The Guardian reports about teacher pay during the austerity years. “Ministers have conceded that teachers’ pay has fallen by thousands of pounds a year since the public spending austerity drive began, amid warnings of a “looming crisis” in attracting and retaining new staff.”
I’m not sure why The Guardian needed to report that ministers had to concede a fact as self-evident as it could possibly be. The article started with highlighting problems around ‘attracting and retaining‘ staff when the story is actually about the decade long crash in pay. And ‘conceding‘ this unprecedented attack on public sector pay is a bit like a boy asking for his football back when you are holding it standing by a round shaped hole in your living room window. There’s no denying who did it.
The crisis being reported was staring the government in the face when the teachers union threatened a national strike in March last year. In fact, it wasn’t one but two teachers unions threatening action. And one-day protests were not being considered – as ‘rolling industrial action’ was the preferred method of getting the message across if the government failed to improve teachers’ pay.
In November, it was heavily reported by the mainstream media, including the BBC, that the teaching profession was in crisis. In Scotland, there were national rallies warning of the crisis a month earlier – related to pay, which itself was also causing problems of retaining staff.
Ministers defended their pay offers on the basis of austerity or, as they put it – that it was a deal in line with other pay settlements agreed with the police and NHS workers, the latter of which threatened and conducted strike action numerous times over the course of the last few years. Morale in the police has plunged with record numbers taking second jobs to boost what they themselves call – ‘insulting wages.‘ The Met Police Chief said last year that the latest pay award was a ‘punch on the nose.’ Like teachers, both the NHS and the police are suffering from retention and recruitment problems and as anyone with an internet connection knows – consistently falling pay has been seriously undermining Britain’s basic public services for years.
In reality, classroom pay has fallen by more than £4,000 a year since 2010 in real terms, according to a government assessment.
At what point did ministers think this situation could go on year after year. Obviously, they did because Damian Hinds, the education secretary, then went ahead and warned just four months ago that only a 2% increase can be expected for the next academic year.
This bizarre ‘conceding‘ admission comes in the Department for Education’s official submission to the School Teachers’ Review Body, which makes recommendations on pay deals. It found that pay is also lower than it was 15 years ago in real terms. “From 2002-03 to 2017-18, classroom teacher median salaries have seen a drop of 10% and overall teacher median salaries of 11% in real terms,” it says.
In 2015 – (and for ministers not burdened with average intelligence, that was about four years ago) analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that teachers pay in England and Scotland fell behind other countries such as Portugal, Ireland and Korea, and are below the average for starting pay in the entire OECD. OECD director of education and skills Andreas Schleicher said at the time that overall, teachers’ salaries are ‘going backwards in real terms’ in Scotland and England.
Also for ministers, this particular report was published and headlined in The Metro – which happens to be a London paper.
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One wonders what intellectual capabilities these ministers have in the first place if they have only just got to the point of ‘conceding’ that teachers pay has fallen so far behind as to cause national rolling strike action, problems with low morale, threats of working to rule, staff retention and recruitment problems along with front page media attention.