NEU and joint union evidence to the STRB

Educators deserve better: the crisis in teacher pay and supply, NEU written evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), March 2023. 


Executive Summary

  1. The National Education Union (NEU) is the largest education union in Europe. The NEU represents the majority of teachers and education professionals in the UK.
  2. In this document the NEU sets out the key issues for teachers and school leaders on pay and related matters, unconfined by the narrow remit set for the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) by the Secretary of State for Education in her remit letter of 15 November 2022.
  3. Our evidence is in line with the need to engage in holistic, objective analysis including all relevant factors instead of the piecemeal assessment of limited factors within an inadequate funding envelope encapsulated in the Secretary of State’s remit.
  4. The NEU evidence shows how the pay cuts that have been a key political choice by successive Governments since2010 have affected teachers. We show how, instead of protecting teachers and school leaders against the highest inflation levels in over four decades, the Government has deliberately sought to cut the real value of teacher pay even further – and by record levels.
  5. The NEU evidence includes the voices of our members. Their testimony illustrates the extent of the cost-of-living crisis for teachers.
  6. Government attacks on teacher pay have significantly damaged the position of teaching in the wider graduate labour market. The NEU evidence sets out the latest information on pay comparability in the context of key developments in the bargaining landscape.
  7. The attacks on pay have made a major contribution to the serious and entrenched recruitment and retention problems. The latest evidence shows that, instead of addressing the critical teacher supply problems, Government policy on pay is making those problems worse – even before the full impact of the devastating pay cut of September 2022 has been seen.
  8. The NEU evidence addresses key pay structure issues including the damage caused by the dismantling of the national pay structure and imposition of unfair performance- related pay (PRP). We attach the findings from the latest NEU Pay and Progression Survey, which again highlights serious equal pay issues including the impact on teachers from Black, Asian or mixed ethnic backgrounds, women, teachers in Primary schools, older teachers, disabled teachers, and part-time and supply teachers.
  9. We set out the case for equal pay and the removal of PRP, alongside other key pay structure issues such as ensuring appropriate pay for additional responsibilities.
  10. A holistic review of the pay structure is needed including the failure of pay “flexibility” and the need for restoration of the national pay structure with mandatory points. We highlight in this context the more positive developments outside of England, including the restoration of the mandatory national pay structure and abolition of PRP in Wales.
  11. To value teachers and school leaders, the pay structure must value their acquisition of skills and experience. The NEU evidence sets out the case for a shorter classroom teacher pay scale with no threshold, fair pay for school leaders and supply teachers, pay portability, and the replacement of PRP with supportive appraisal and annual pay progression.
  12. Along with the key pay issues, we set out the latest position on workload including higher class sizes and pupil numbers. Excessive accountability and fragmented pay arrangements intensify the workload problems.
  13. Pay cuts and sky-high workload hit recruitment and retention, and the interaction of these problems creates a self-reinforcing cycle of teacher supply problems. We set out the case for fully funded improvements to pay and workload.
  14. The NEU evidence sets out the case against austerity and the economic case for the investment needed in education including the increases needed to teacher pay.
  15. It is not the job of the STRB to seek to simply manage the problems created by Government policy. Credible and objective review of teacher pay and conditions must also include the actions needed to secure fair pay and effective recruitment and retention. In addition to setting out the depth of the problems created by Government policy, we set out the urgent improvements to pay and conditions that are required to solve the problems.
  16. The review body process has signally failed teachers and school leaders. Teachers and school leaders are angry at the absence of negotiating rights. This evidence shows how the STRB has failed to protect teachers and school leaders against the huge real terms pay cuts. The STRB has cooperated with the Government in the imposition of unfair and unevidenced PRP.
  17. By failing to set out the changes needed unconstrained by the Government’s inadequate funding envelope, the STRB has not provided the objective review that should be the basis for its recommendations.
  18. The narrow remit given to the STRB by the Secretary of State reinforces the point that the review body process is not fit for purpose.
  19. The STRB should reject the Government’s attempts to constrain it and make the recommendations needed to repair the damage to teacher pay, recruitment and retention, and workload.
  20. There is a complete disconnect between the Government’s dogma-driven approach and the real crisis in teacher pay and supply. The STRB has shown itself to be incapable of challenging the Government’s policy choices on the basis of the evidence. The Government and the STRB are out of touch with the real lived experience of teachers and isolated in the face of the consensus across the profession on the key issues.
  21. The NEU evidence sets out the pay increases needed to repair the damage caused by more than a decade of attacks on teacher pay, including restoration of the real terms losses since 2010 to be followed by establishing pay levels sufficient to properly value teachers and ensure that teaching can compete effectively with other graduate professions.
  22. The NEU calls for a collectively agreed package of improvements to teacher pay and conditions so that we properly value teachers and school leaders. Urgent and undifferentiated pay increases are needed, alongside improvements to implement a fair pay structure and to reduce workload. Without these urgent improvements, we will not be able to recruit and retain the teachers we need – so valuing teachers is essential to protect our education service.
  23. Any pay increases in 2023 must be just the start of a process of first restoring the pay lost since 2010, then creating a pay structure and pay levels capable of supporting teachers, leaders and the education service in the long term. This, not the limited and inadequate remit set for the STRB by the Government, sets the context for any credible assessment of teacher and school leader pay.

Joint union response to STRB 2023

This is a joint response from the unions representing the vast majority of teachers and school leaders in England. We are united on the key issues covered in the STRB report and the Government’s response.

Pay slip and pen

Pay awards

Teachers' pay awards and the School Teachers Review Body

English money – coins and notes


Information on teachers and support staff pay to assist educators in understanding their pay scales, progression, and rights to fair pay in various educational settings.

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