2% for all main scale teachers

Yesterday, the School Teachers Pay Review Body published its report and recommendations to the government. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/626156/59497_School_Teachers_Review_Accessible.pdf as expected, the STRB felt bound by the remit letter it had received from government. As a result, its conclusions didn’t breech the government’s stated policy of a one per cent cap on public sector pay: no real surprise there. However, the STRB’s recommendations did contain one suggestion for higher pay to the maximum and minimum of the main pay range.

STRB’s 2017 Recommendations

For September 2017, we recommend:

  • A 2% uplift to the minimum and maximum of the main pay range (MPR);
  • A 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of the upper pay range (UPR), the unqualified teacher pay range and the leading practitioner pay range;
  • A 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of the leadership group pay range and all head teacher group pay ranges; and,
  • A 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of the Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR) and Special Educational Needs (SEN) allowance ranges.

If accepted, these recommendations will lead to some teachers receiving a higher pay rise than others, notably those on the top of the main scale, but not having progressed through to the higher pay scales. Now since many, if not most academies don’t have to stick to the national pay scales, this provides an interesting opportunity for the teacher associations to flex their muscle and demand a 2% rise on the main scale for all teachers not covered by the mandatory national pay scales. If achieved, it would put pressure on the government either to offer the same deal to other teachers across the sector or risk teacher recruitment and retention issues becoming worse outside the academy sector.

The data in the STRB Report suggests that most schools can carry an extra one per cent on their main scale teacher’s pay bill by dipping into reserves. Yes, a hoped for building project might be delayed by a year, but many teachers would feel that their financial situation is being taken seriously.

Is it in the interests of the teacher associations to take this line or to hold out for more for everyone at some point in the future? That’s their judgement call, but I think the two per cent for all main scale teachers demonstrates that they do more on the pay front than just argue the case with the STRB and are indeed prepared to take on a weak government playing a poor hand on public sector pay.

To compensate, I would argue for bringing MAT chief officers pay within the overall cap. It is surely wrong to cap the pay of workers but let the bosses set their own take from public money, albeit sanctioned by their boards.

There is plenty of evidence within the STRB report of recruitment problems, but having waited so long to publish the STRB might have updated some charts with the evidence from the 2016 School Workforce Census rather than relying on 2015 that charted the recruitment round for September two years ago.


Another aspect of the funding problem

What happens if a large secondary school at the centre of a multi-academy trust comprising a mix of both primary schools and a secondary school goes bust, perhaps because the original founders made some unwise decisions and there was then a drop in applications from local parents to send their children to the secondary school, aware that teachers were leaving the schools and concerned that standards might slip as a result? Or because there was an outflow of EU nationals from the area now Article 50 has been triggered.

Does the failure of the secondary school bring down all the primary schools in the MAT as well or can they survive on their own. At what point should the trustees decide to cut a financially unviable school adrift and will the Education Funding Agency allow them to do so if there are other assets in the MAT that might keep the school going for longer?

I am sure that there are civil servants in Coventry thinking about these types of scenario and perhaps role-playing them with Regional School Commissioners. How far have they progressed in their thinking should the MAT has a faith base and all the schools within it belong to the same faith or Christian denomination?

Sitting in the wings is the local authority, with whom the ultimate authority for providing every pupil with a school place still resides. What happens if the school that has just become financially unviable is in a rural area and the places at other schools require a large increase in the school transport bill? Who picks up the tab?

Obviously, the ideal solution is for the school buildings to open under a new administration, but will the government allow that to happen if it means writing off the debts of a school. To do so might encourage other schools to run up large deficit budgets, secure in the knowledge that the government will bail them out. One answer might be for the government to replace the trustees. But at what point? As soon as a deficit budget position is reached? When the deficit going forward looks as if it will reach a pre-determined percentage of current turnover after taking any falling rolls and thus falling income into account? If the financially unviable school is a faith school, can a new faith school replace it? To do so might well save on transport costs, but a replacement school that wasn’t faith-based might allow for transport savings. Of course, much will depend upon who has the ownership of the buildings?

With the demise of several UTCs and studio schools, plus a small number of other academies, these scenarios are no longer in the realm of the unthinkable. But, does there need to be a level playing field with some clear and open guidelines that don’t encourage schools to create deficits on their revenue spending.

At present, there is the ‘financial notice to improve’ from the EFA, but, the issue is what happens when the school or MAT doesn’t do so for reasons beyond its control? Time to re-read the Academies Financial handbook.


Education in the budget

Never mind what the Chancellor said, pasted below is what the Treasury are really saying about education in the budget.

Here are my thoughts:

How will the 10% of schools that could gain under the National Funding Formula, but won’t receive the full amount, be identified?

Where is the funding for the extra pupils to come from? Some 700,000 extra pupils at £4,000 would generate a need for 32.8 billion extra funding by early in the next parliament. There isn’t anything about this in the budget.

This sort of basic need funding makes the extra money from the sugar tax look less than generous, even if it is a job creation scheme funded by the drinks industry for art, PE and drama teachers. I also note that while the figure for primary schools is clear; an extra £160 million per year, the figure for secondary of £285 million is only expressed as ‘up to’ – so no guarantee there.

If all 1,600 schools take up the £10 million for breakfast clubs they will receive £32.89 per day based upon a 190 day school-year. Helpful, but not a huge amount.

What happens as the industry cuts out sugar and reduces the amount the levy will raise isn’t, of course, clear.

Interestingly, there was no comment on the costs associated with the big gamble to make all schools academies. This isn’t a cost free exercise, as one of my earlier posts has shown.

The 2016 budget


1.89 This Budget accelerates the government’s schools reforms and takes steps to create a gold standard education throughout England. The government will:

  • drive forward the radical devolution of power to school leaders, expecting all schools to become academies by 2020, or to have an academy order in place to convert by 2022. The academies programme is transforming education for thousands of pupils, helping to turn around struggling schools while offering our best schools the freedom to excel even further
  • accelerate the move to fairer funding for schools. The arbitrary and unfair system for allocating school funding will be replaced by the first National Funding Formula for schools from 2017-18. Subject to consultation, the government’s aim is for 90% of schools who gain additional funding to receive the full amount they are due by 2020. To enable this the government will provide around £500 million of additional core funding to schools over the course of this Spending Review, on top of the commitment to maintain per pupil funding in cash terms. The government will retain a minimum funding guarantee
  • ask Professor Sir Adrian Smith to review the case for how to improve the study of maths from 16 to 18, to ensure the future workforce is skilled and competitive, including looking at the case and feasibility for more or all students continuing to study maths to 18, in the longer-term. The review will report during 2016
  • invest £20 million a year of new funding in a Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy. This new funding will ensure rapid action is taken to tackle the unacceptable divides that have seen educational progress in some parts of the North lag behind the rest of the country. In support of this, Sir Nick Weller will lead a report into transforming education across the Northern Powerhouse

Soft drinks industry levy to pay for school sport

1.90 Childhood obesity is a national problem.

The UK currently has one of the highest overall obesity rates amongst developed countries In England 1 in 10 children are obese when they start primary school, and this rises to 2 in 10 by the time they leave.

1.91 The evidence shows that 80% of children who are obese between the ages of 10 and 14 will go on to become obese adults, and this has widespread costs to society, including through lost productivity and the direct costs of treating obesity-related illness. The estimated cost to the UK economy today from obesity is approximately £27 billion, with the NHS currently spending over £5 billion on obesity-related costs.

1.92 Sugar consumption is a major factor in childhood obesity, and sugar-sweetened soft drinks are now the single biggest source of dietary sugar for children and teenagers. A single 330ml can of cola can contain more than a child’s daily recommended intake of added sugar. Public health experts have identified sugar-sweetened soft drinks of this kind as a major factor in the prevalence of childhood obesity.

1.93 Budget 2016 announces a new soft drinks industry levy targeted at producers and importers of soft drinks that contain added sugar. The levy will be designed to encourage companies to reformulate by reducing the amount of added sugar in the drinks they sell, moving consumers towards lower sugar alternatives, and reducing portion sizes.

1.94 Under this levy, if producers change their behaviour, they will pay less tax. The levy is expected to raise £520 million in the first year. The OBR expect that this number will fall over time as the total consumption of soft drinks in scope of the levy drops, in part as a result of producers changing their behaviour and helping consumers to make healthier choices.

1.95 In England, revenue from the soft drinks industry levy over the scorecard period will be used to:

  • double the primary school PE and sport premium from £160 million per year to £320 million per year from September 2017 to help schools support healthier, more active lifestyles. This funding will enable primary schools to make further improvements to the quality and breadth of PE and sport they offer, such as by introducing new activities and after school clubs and making greater use of coaches
  • provide up to £285 million a year to give 25% of secondary schools increased opportunity to extend their school day to offer a wider range of activities for pupils, including more sport
  • provide £10 million funding a year to expand breakfast clubs in up to 1,600 schools starting from September 2017, to ensure more children have a nutritious breakfast as a healthy start to their school day

There are also some regional developments associated with the northern Powerhouse developments.

Finally, Gordon Brown meddled in education as Chancellor; one result was the 2002 staffing crisis after schools were handed cash, but the extra teachers they tried to recruit with the money hadn’t been trained. Will this Chancellor fare better with his announcements on academies and will Tory backbenchers go along with making their local primary schools all academies?