So much for the School Teachers Review Body. The Chancellor’s announcement of a 1% pay rise, seemingly not just a 1% rise in the pay bill, is bad news for education. What will there be for the STRB to do now it has been told not just its terms of reference but also its outcome for the life of this parliament.
Even more worrying was the absence of news about local government finance in the budget. Even keeping the current threshold on Council Tax increases of 1.9%, when added to general price inflation, may tip teachers and others working in education over the edge into seeing their pay cut, especially now that young teachers have no guarantee of an annual increment. And any removal of the limit on rises could see extra taxes being collected by some localities to fund deficits on social care and other local services, but no schooling of course.
There is some relief in that young teachers sharing a flat, as I did in my early 20s, can no doubt find a way to make use of the increase in tax-free income from the rent a room scheme. But, that’s still likely to be small beer.
I also think the budget strengthens my case for taking teacher preparation courses out of the student loans system and paying the fees for everyone. There is no time to earn anything during the graduate preparation course that is now so intense that for many it leaves little time for anything else except sleep.
In those parts of the country where the graduate labour market is strong, notably London and the Home Counties, the budget may do serious harm to the school system. Could it unwind some or all of the gains achieved over the past decade? It might well do so because many teachers in the age bracket where it is feasibly to look for a change of career. After all, second careers don’t have to be into teaching.