Dear Secretary of State
We are writing on behalf of the country's primary, special and secondary school teachers and headteachers.
We want to express our dismay at the continuing lack of a decision over teachers’ pay. As you are aware, today is the last day of the school term for most. In fact, schools in some areas finished term last week.
This means that schools and teachers will have begun the summer holidays with no idea of the pay award that is supposed to be operative from September, and with headteachers having had no opportunity to prepare anything other than notional budgets.
This would be particularly problematic at any time, but is especially so given the significant financial pressures under which they are operating as a result of real-term cuts to school funding.
Schools are constantly being lectured about the need for careful financial planning in a climate which has been caused by your government’s underinvestment in the education system, and now face a situation which renders that job even harder. We are sure you will appreciate the intense frustration felt by the country's teachers and headteachers.
We are concerned that the House of Commons rises next Tuesday for the summer recess. If this happens without a pay announcement, we want to ask whether this will mean no decision will be forthcoming during the recess and that the earliest we will be able to expect anything is the beginning of September? This would, of course, remove the opportunity for any preparatory work before the start of the new term.
We appreciate that the delay in this decision may be as a result of an impasse between your department and the Treasury on how any pay award would be funded. As you know, it is the position of all of our unions that teachers need a significant pay rise if the current problems with teacher recruitment and retention are not to become even more pronounced. We also agree that schools simply cannot withstand another unfunded cost on their budgets, so the cost of the needed pay award must be fully funded.
We believe that it is a fundamental principle that all national pay awards should be fully funded by central government. The impact of not fully funding the pay award will bring schools to crisis point and place our headteacher members in an invidious position, making it necessary to set deficit budgets and leading to schools becoming insolvent.
In order to maintain competitiveness in the graduate labour market, we believe that the annual uplift should apply to all teachers and leaders, and that local employers should ensure that their pay policies reflect this principle.
We are sure that you can see from this statement the strength of feeling that exists among our members, and we do appreciate that resolving the issue of funding may involve detailed discussion and consideration.
However, it is surely not unreasonable to expect that a fundamental role of government is to govern in an orderly and timely manner and not precipitate uncertainty and a sense of crisis. The current delay fails this basic test and is entirely unacceptable.
We look forward to your urgent reply confirming the government’s plans on this matter.
Geoff Barton General Secretary ASCL
Paul Whiteman General Secretary NAHT
Kevin Courtney Joint General Secretary NEU
Mary Bousted Joint General Secretary NEU