This September, just 1% of independent sector teacher respondents stated that they received a cost of living increase that matched, or bettered, the 3.5% state-maintained teacher award recommended by the School Teachers’ Review Body.

Worse still, 21% independent sector teachers and 15% of support staff reported that they received no cost-of-living increase whatsoever.

The 2018 NEU survey records that the most common pay award in the sector was in the range of 1.1% to 2%, with 34% of teacher respondents and 38% of support staff receiving this amount.

This award fails to keep pace with the rate of inflation, as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI), which stood at 3.3% for the year to September 2018, meaning a cut to living standards in real terms.

There is growing concern among NEU members working in the sector about the decline in their living standards, as the result of the accumulative effect of pay increases below the rate of inflation, year after year.

If an employee had received a 1% cost-of-living award every year since 2010, they would have had the equivalent of a 14.1% pay cut in real terms, when adjusted for RPI.

Even a higher annual award of 2% would be the equivalent of a 7.1% pay cut in real terms over the same period, when adjusted for RPI.

While pay fails to keep pace with inflation, workload is still on the rise. 68% of teachers said that it had increased since last year. Almost two-thirds (65%) of teacher respondents stated that they worked three or more evenings every week during term time.

41% of independent sector teachers who responded to the 2018 NEU survey reported working every weekend, and a further 30% of teachers said that they ‘regularly’ worked at weekends. 83% put this down to workload, with 61% saying that this weekend work was either ‘expected’ or ‘demanded’ of them.

A teacher in Scotland summed up this common experience: “I regularly work 7.30am to 6.30pm at school, plus an hour at home three evenings a week and every weekend.”

And a proper lunch break to recuperate is becoming less and less prevalent. Fewer than half of all teachers (47%) and support staff (49%) reported that they enjoyed a lunch break of more than the statutory minimum of 20 minutes. As one teacher said:

“…no place to relax at lunchtime, expected to eat in the canteen with the children, meaning no brain break.”

Many support staff have suffered a double-whammy, with an increasing trend amongst employers towards paying them only during term-time, while at the same time expected to work unpaid hours. A whopping 39% of support staff respondents to the 2018 NEU survey reported that they were paid for working term-time only.

While expecting support staff to work unpaid overtime, more than two-thirds of respondents (70%) said that the demands of the job required them to regularly work extra hours, with 63% of all respondents doing so without any remuneration.

A teaching assistant in the East Midlands, commented on the inequity of her working hours: “If we work fewer hours, we are enforced to make it up.  If we work over, it isn’t rewarded in equal measure.”

Commenting on the survey results, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Staff morale is being damaged by below inflation salary increases and burgeoning workloads. With pay awards lagging behind the state sector, this year could prove a watershed for many independent sector staff. Frustration over pay, combined with growing confidence from our enhanced membership of over 30,000 working in the sector, means that more and more NEU members are getting organised at school level, and asserting their rights to collectively negotiate their pay and working hours.  

“Employers need to refocus on their biggest asset: their hard-working staff. They can do this in two ways. First, by carrying out a workload audit of all staff to ensure manageable workloads, adequate rest periods and appropriate recompense. Second, pay should be increased, as a bare minimum, in line with RPI.”


Editor’s Note

The National Education Union survey of 1,012 teacher members and 174 support staff members was conducted between 28 September and 23 October 2018.

Independent School Teachers' Survey 2018

Independent Schools Support Staff Survey 2018