The latest National Education Union survey on teacher pay and progression underlines the problems caused by low teacher pay levels and unfair restrictions on pay progression. 

With serious teacher recruitment and retention problems continuing, the NEU survey shows that two-thirds (63%) of teachers have considered leaving the profession because of concerns on pay.  Well over half of teachers (58%) report that they are underpaid compared to other graduate professionals. With over 25,000 members responding, the NEU’s survey is the largest on teachers’ pay increases and pay progression.

Leaving the profession

We gave respondents two statements to consider:

“Poor levels of pay have sometimes made me think about switching to a different career”

“The unfairness of performance pay progression has sometimes made me think about leaving the profession”

Two thirds (63%) agreed with one or both of these statements.  A quarter of respondents (24%) agreed with the first statement, a further 15% with the second and 24% agreed with both.

Half of school leaders (50%) responded to one or both statements, with 20% agreeing with the first, 11% with the second and 19% with both.

Feeling underpaid and undervalued

Our survey also shows that 58% of teachers feel they are underpaid compared to other graduate professionals.

  • 48% agreed with the statement “My current pay is less than I would expect to be paid given my job weight, role and responsibilities”.
  • A further 10% believed they were paid “significantly less” than they should be.

Cost of living increase

At a time when we need to ensure that all teachers see their pay improved against inflation, a significant number of teachers do not get any cost-of-living award or get less than the general uplift. When asked about their cost-of-living pay increase for September 2019:

  • 10% of respondents told us they had received no cost-of-living increase in 2019, while 39% still did not know whether they would get one or not.  Only 49% said that they had received a 2.75% increase in line with the School Teachers’ Review Body Government recommendations. The remaining 2% of respondents received an increase, but not at the recommended level.
  • Major equalities issues remain, with women less likely to receive a cost-of-living increase.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Our findings demonstrate that low pay, denial of pay rises and an unfair progression system are obstacles to solving the teacher retention crisis.  Pay is becoming more and more uncertain at a time when pupil numbers are rising, workload remains high, and the real-terms funding of schools is tightening.   This will not make the profession attractive or ensure teachers stay in the profession.

“Our survey shows that teachers continue to be short-changed by the Government’s alterations to the pay structure.  Teachers need higher pay and more certainty about pay progression to encourage them to join and stay in teaching.

“We call on the Government to acknowledge this further evidence.  Our survey provides yet more evidence to support our case for a 7% increase for all teachers in September followed by urgent action to provide further above-inflation increases beyond 2020 to restore the real terms pay cuts teachers have suffered since 2010.”

Editor’s Note

The survey was conducted in January 2020 amongst members working in state funded schools and academies in England. 25,430 members completed the survey. Its key findings were submitted as part of the NEU’s supplementary evidence submission to the School Teachers’ Review Body consultation, which closed on Monday 17 February.