Independent school staff report increased workload and low pay, says survey

The National Education Union’s annual independent sector pay and conditions survey reveals that pay austerity for private school staff continues unabated, despite increased pay awards in the state sector

This September, just three per cent of independent sector teachers said that they had received a cost-of-living increase that matched, or bettered, the 2.75% increase recommended by the School Teachers’ Review Body for teachers in state schools. Just 18% of support staff had an increase which matched or bettered the lower increase for support staff in state schools (two per cent).

Worse still, 28% of independent sector teachers and 23% of support staff reported that they received no cost-of-living increase whatsoever.

With employer contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme increasing, 35% of teachers reported that their employer was consulting staff on proposals to exit the TPS.

While pay fails to keep pace with inflation, workload is still on the rise. More than half (60%) of teachers said their workload had increased since last year. Two-thirds (67%) said that they worked two or more evenings per week during term time, and a third (34%) reported working every weekend.

As a head of department from the north west stated, “More extracurricular; more duties to monitor behaviour; more individual support expected.”

A teacher from the south east commented, “More and more unrealistic expectations are imposed upon us with little or no reward.”

An eastern region teacher summed up a common cause: “Too many new initiatives!”

Many teachers do not get a proper lunch break to recuperate. Only a third of respondents (33%) received the NEU recommended minimum of a 40-minute lunch break. Shockingly, a quarter (26%) do not receive the statutory minimum of an uninterrupted daily break of 20 minutes.

More than half of all support staff respondents (51%) are paid for working term-time only, substantially affecting take-home pay. This is significantly up from the 39% figure in the 2018 NEU survey.  Unpaid overtime remains high, with 71% saying that the demands of the job required them to regularly work extra hours, and just over half (52%) doing so without any extra pay.  Many support staff suffer a double whammy of being expected to work unpaid hours despite being on term time only contracts.  An administrator working in the south east commented: “I work many hours unpaid overtime. I often work Saturdays now.”

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Support staff are also often stuck at the pay level on which they started, with 71% of respondents reporting they have had no pay progression. However, with NEU support, some union members have been able to improve their lot – a technician from the east midlands stated, “In the last 12 months we have negotiated pay progression. Before that there was one salary, no pay scale, no pay progression for technicians.”

Commenting on the survey results, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Most independent school employers are failing to keep pace with pay awards in the state sector. To add insult to injury, other elements of remuneration in the independent sector are being undermined in other ways. Support staff have witnessed a growing move to term-time only contracts, and many teachers are facing a massive hit to their pensions as their employers try to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

“Independent schools are people businesses. Employers would be well advised to put their staff first.”

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