Last word is not the most important

It is not often that I get the last word, but that has literally happened in the latest Report of the Teachers’ Pay Review Body that can be found at: Alright, I know it is only an acknowledgement of the fact that I and the Chief Executive both provided them with a briefing. In my case, one (unpublished) on teacher supply matters.

What remains of far more importance than my evidence is the discussions of the STRB about pay and recruitment to the profession that are neatly summarised in paragraph 3.56 of the Report:

3.56 As this chapter has identified, there is clear and consistent evidence that both the starting and profession-wide pay of teachers is less competitive relative to other professional occupations in several areas of the country, and that this gap is widening. Our evidence also suggests able graduates in other professions progress more quickly in the first three to five years and have more opportunity to reach higher levels of earnings as their careers progress subsequently. This heightens the risk of those in the profession feeling under-valued and recruitment and retention suffering as a consequence.

Now that is a real warning to government about teacher supply going forward. What is curious is that despite London being thought of as the least competitive part of the country in salary terms for new teachers, applications to train in London have been increasing at faster rates than elsewhere in the country this year. I don’t think it is because would-be teachers know that school teachers in Inner London do well compared to others entering the labour market with first degrees; and so they should after an extra year of training, since they fare less well against those entering the labour market with higher degrees. May be it is because of a separate London attraction factor despite the negative high prices of housing and transport in the capital.

I think the STRB have made clear that governments in the future have a real problem in relation to teacher supply that has been articulated on this blog before; but is good to read in an official publication. Increased pupil numbers, and increased demand for graduates from the wider economy, both exert real pressure on the labour market for teachers. While it was good to see that teachers joining the profession between 1997 and 2009 had relatively high retention rates, there is no guarantee in the next economic cycle that this outcome will continue unless pay keeps pace with the private sector. Interestingly, there is clear evidence that the pay reforms of the early 2000s boosted teacher retention by a couple of percentage point overall, and probably more in certain specific subjects and areas.

The STRB Report is useful evidence for NQTs negotiating starting salaries in the new market driven world. Any teachers except those in English, PE and history, are clearly in a position to start salary bargaining at say point M3 on the old scale as a starting salary just to take account of the training year. If they don’t already do so, the professional associations should be offering advice on pay bargaining to new members, and monitoring the results. I expect to be offering schools a new service along these lines, starting with secondary trainees in the class of 2014.


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