Woman using laptop without desk

Winning an acceptable pay policy

How to challenge unfair pay policies and secure a fair pay policy in your school.

Since the imposition of performance-related pay progression (PRP) for all teachers, NEU members have worked successfully in many schools and academies to secure school pay policies that protect teachers. Winning an acceptable pay policy in each school is still only a temporary expedient in our campaign to force the Government to reverse its attacks on the national pay structure for teachers. 

Advisory pay points for the main and upper pay ranges, and unqualified teacher pay ranges, based on previous pay advice from the NEU and other unions, have been restored to the school teachers’ pay and conditions document (STPCD) in England. In Wales, the Welsh Government has restored national mandatory pay scales and abolished PRP. These are important developments and can be used to secure improvements in school pay policies. 

Even if your school has adopted a pay policy that does not comply with NEU policy, it is not too late to try and change it. 

  • Get a copy of your pay policy and check it against the NEU model policy and checklist
  • Was there proper consultation on the policy? Head teachers are required to consult with staff and trade unions – did this happen? 
  • If you think you should challenge parts of the policy, meet members to discuss the issue and contact the NEU locally for advice and support. 

The NEU checklist sets out the conditions for complying with the union’s approach. The NEU will support members, up to and including strike action, in order to secure acceptable policies. Many school groups have taken or threatened to take such action and have won improvements in their school’s policy. 

Checking your pay policy – a quick checklist for reps

  • Pay on appointment – does your school pay policy commit to pay portability?
  • Pay scales – does it retain a six-point main scale, three-point upper scale, 43-point leadership scale and six-point unqualified scale?
  • Pay decisions – are these based only on appraisal outcomes? Are teachers protected against requests to provide additional evidence for pay decisions? Are teachers given ‘early warnings’ about performance concerns and the possibility of non-progression? Is support provided to address those concerns?
  • Pay progression – are the criteria clear, fair and no higher than before? Does the policy avoid objectives and pay decisions related to lesson observation outcomes and/or numeric pupil attainment targets?

If you answer NO to any of the above, your policy is not in line with NEU policy.

Pay progression criteria 

School pay policies set the criteria and expectations which teachers must meet before they get pay progression. Pay decisions must be linked to appraisal for all teachers and school leaders. Schools set the standards for pay progression – and some standards are more demanding than before (e.g. all teaching to be ‘good or better’, or crude or unachievable targets for pupil attainment). Some are also asking teachers for more evidence than before.

The NEU wants pay decisions based only on the appraisal process, with appraisal the nomr and deemed successful and teachers progressing unless concerns raised during the appraisal process have not been successfully addressed through support provided.

Pay portability

For many years, teachers moving school or returning after a career break were entitled to be paid at least on the same point they were on in their previous job. Now, schools can offer teachers whatever pay rate they like within the overall pay ranges.

Most schools have committed to maintain pay portability – but if they don’t, experienced teachers will be forced to accept lower pay in order to get jobs. This is about paying teachers less, not improving standards.

In Wales, pay portability has been restored to the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Wales Document for Main and Upper Pay Scale teachers.

Fixed pay scales 

The school teachers’ pay & conditions document (STPCD) England no longer sets a fixed six-point main scale, three-point upper scale, 43-point leadership scale and six-point unqualified teacher scale. These have been replaced with pay ranges with only an upper and lower limit. Schools can have as many or as few points on their own pay scales as they want. Again, most schools have kept the above pay scales – but if they don’t, pay progression will become far less certain, hitting recruitment and retention alike and denying teachers the pay progression they deserve as they acquire experience and expertise. 

The reintroduction of advisory pay points for the main, upper pay and unqualified pay ranges in England, and the restoration of mandatory pay scales in Wales, are important developments and can be used to secure improvements to school pay policies. 

Pay progression: useful DfE advice 

The Department for Education (DfE) pay advice, Implementing your school’s approach to pay, contains some guidance which should help secure any necessary changes to your school’s pay policy. 

The guidance addresses pay and pay progression issues in relation to both classroom and leadership teachers. Some of the advice does not have the NEU’s endorsement – particularly the model pay policy and appendix.

What to do if your policy is not in line with NEU policy 

If you think your policy is not in line with NEU policy: 

  • contact the NEU locally 

  • call a meeting for NEU members 

  • talk to members about the pay policy 

  • ask your head teacher for a meeting 

  • approach the governors 

  • consider any response from the head and/or governors. 

If your approaches fail and you are still faced with an unacceptable pay policy, the NEU will support members in taking action up to and including strike action. If you think negotiations have been exhausted, contact the NEU locally to discuss the next steps.

Academy pay policies

Although the STPCD does not apply statutorily to academies, most academies have adopted it for teachers’ pay and are therefore contractually required to follow its terms in full. The STPCD continues to apply under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) to teachers whose employment transferred when the school became an academy. All of the above advice on NEU policy and support applies equally to members in academies.

The NEU is committed to protecting members in academies that still use the national pay arrangements and to securing the restoration of those pay arrangements where they are no longer used.

Back to top