The NEU has today written to Gillian Keegan calling out the Government for its failure to properly invest in education and for delaying the school teacher pay review body process in England.
Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said;
“The NEU is calling on Gillian Keegan to urgently issue a remit to the STRB that includes the key issue of restoring the pay lost in real terms. In the interests of teachers, parents and pupils, the Government must reverse the harm its policies have done to our education service.
‘Last July, the Secretary of State promised to complete the review body process earlier this year to better align it with schools’ budget cycle. And yet her remit letter to the STRB is already three weeks later than last year.
‘Teacher pay has been hit with huge real terms cuts since 2010 and teacher workload is sky high. Today’s catastrophic teacher recruitment figures, with numbers down from an already low base and just 50% of the secondary school target met, are only the latest confirmation of the damage that is being done by the Government’s wilful refusal to improve teacher pay and conditions. With no new funding for schools, teacher recruitment falling through the floor, and teacher living standards hit hard, the Government is turning its back on the needs of our education service. That means it is turning its back not only on teachers, but on parents and pupils too”.
Full text of letter below :
Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP
Secretary of State for Education
Great Smith Street
7 December 2023
Dear Secretary of State
You will be aware that ahead of his Autumn Statement, we wrote to the Chancellor (on 9 November 2023) urging him to prioritise funding for education. We are extremely concerned that the Chancellor has subsequently failed to announce any new funds for schools. Our concern is now compounded by your failure to issue a remit letter to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB).
I am sure that I do not need to remind you of the commitment you made to the education unions when settling our pay dispute last summer, namely to “align the timing of the STRB process with the school budget cycle to make it easier for schools to plan ahead, make effective choices and reduce nugatory contingency planning.” (Your 14 July 2023 letter to education union General Secretaries).
Your remit letter to the STRB is already three weeks late compared to last year. At this point in the pay review cycle, statutory consultees should have been invited to submit written (and supplementary) evidence to the STRB, so that it can review that evidence and then report on pay matters in sufficient time to settle pay matters ahead of the new academic year. The commitment you made to us on 14 July 2023, clearly indicated your intention to settle pay matters ahead of the school budget cycle this year (i.e. by the end of April 2024).
It is difficult to see how you can abide by this commitment to conclude the statutory process earlier than previously when you are already starting it at least three weeks later. Failure to engage with us on pay matters in a timely fashion not only, once again, frustrates the ability of school leaders to plan ahead and offer their staff and parents the certainty they deserve. It also further undermines the rights of our members to be represented by their union over their pay.
But the most worrying aspect of this delay in the pay review process is that it forestalls any meaningful attempt to address the multiple crises facing our schools. As we stated in our 9 November letter to the Chancellor, currently schools will barely be able to afford a teacher pay rise of one per cent in September 2024. We currently expect schools’ costs to rise by at least 5.8 per cent in 2024-25, in the event of a pay award equivalent to that awarded in 2023-24. Unless this year we take a meaningful step towards the full restoration of the pay teachers have lost in real terms against inflation since 2010, schools will simply not be able to recruit and retain teachers nor avoid making further cuts in provision. Today’s news that the Government’s teacher training recruitment targets have been missed yet again confirms this beyond all reasonable doubt. We would expect your remit letter to the STRB to direct it to review the critical issue of pay lost in real terms since 2010.
So, your delay issuing the remit letter to the STRB not only fails teachers and leaders. It fails pupils and parents too.
In our view, it constitutes an attempt to frustrate the statutory scheme and, in light of the commitments you made last July, constitutes a very serious act of bad faith.
I trust that you will now confirm how and when you will ensure you honour the commitments you made on 14 July 2023, most specifically by issuing the STRB with an appropriate remit to immediately address the matters relating to teachers’ pay and conditions for 2024-25 that the crisis in education demands.
Teachers, leaders, pupils and parents will not forgive any further delay.
I look forward to hearing from you.