Teacher shortages may lead to pay rise above one per cent cap, Truss hints

CREDIT: This story was first seen in the Guardian

Chief secretary to the Treasury indicates cap on wage rises might be lifted for parts of public sector facing skills shortages, the Guardian reports.

Teachers in England and Wales – along with other frontline public servants – may receive a more sizeable pay rise next year, after the government indicated it would lift the tough one per cent cap on wage increases it had previously applied.

A letter from Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, to the board responsible for recommending teachers’ pay awards said that shortages meant it was prepared to accept a pay rise above the 1% limit for 2018-19.

“The government recognises that in some parts of the public sector, particularly in areas of skill shortage, more flexibility may be required to deliver world-class public services including in return for improvements to public sector productivity,” Truss said in a letter to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB).

Truss also sent similar letters to other public sector pay review boards.

Rehana Azam, the GMB union’s national secretary for public services, described the letters as a cynical gesture.

“Publishing these letters on the eve of Conservative party conference are intended to give Theresa May a soundbite to appease her own mutinous backbenchers,” Azam said.

“Pushing forward with slightly less harsh cuts for a small minority of public sector workers will do nothing to win back the trust and goodwill that has been lost.”

Teaching unions welcomed the decision, coming after several years of below-inflation increases. But they warned that without extra funding for school budgets, any pay rises would simply take money away from elsewhere.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that without additional funding next year the higher pay rise was meaningless.

“There is a strong moral case for increasing public sector pay, which has been obstructed up to now by stubborn political rhetoric. There’s nothing fair about that,” Whiteman said.

“The STRB needs a remit that can look beyond a 1% per cent maximum and, crucially, all pay rises must be fully funded into school budgets otherwise they will be meaningless in practice.”

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Truss also warned that the 2018-19 pay awards were likely to be delayed by the government’s move to an annual budget from autumn.

“I recognise that this is far from ideal as our hard-working public servants are entitled to receive their awards promptly,” Truss said in her letters to the pay bodies.

The pay news comes as Justine Greening, the education secretary, prepares to tell the Conservatives in Manchester that she wants to go ahead with a manifesto pledge to open teacher training to apprenticeships.

In her speech to the conference on Sunday, Greening will indicate she wants a new route into teaching via high quality degree apprenticeships, which would allow school-leavers to train and study while getting paid.

But any trainees will not gain full qualified teacher status without first gaining an degree, which they will be able to do through an undergraduate apprenticeship.

The Tory manifesto pledged to explore teaching apprenticeships sponsored by major companies, especially in science, maths and technology.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said apprenticeships could be an appropriate route for some new teachers. But he wanted to ensure their training included “strong pedagogical content”.

But the National Education Union (NEU) was more hostile, with Kevin Courtney, the union’s joint general secretary, saying he was surprised by Greening’s move.

“The NEU does not think it is appropriate for teaching apprentices to complete their degrees at the same time as undertaking the apprenticeship programme,” Courtney said.

“Teaching requires specialist knowledge in many areas, including child development theory, as well as the acquisition of pedagogical skills. This takes time both inside and outside the classroom.”

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