More talk about money

There was an interesting slot on the BBC’s Today Programme just before 0800 this morning. The Presenter plus a head teacher of an Oxfordshire Secondary School and the education researcher from Policy Exchange, the right leaning think tank, exchanged words about the state of school funding. This sort of early morning interview ritual on that programme follows set lines, two interviewees with different perspectives on the same matter and an interviewer introducing the issue and setting a hare running. When verbal exchanges are either too intense or nothing happens, the interviewer will step in and act accordingly, otherwise the two interviewees trade words.

Not surprisingly, this morning, the head teacher was full of woe about the state of funding, especially in Oxfordshire and the researcher thought either everything should be rosy or if that wasn’t the case it was all the fault of schools for employing too many staff; paying them too much or not belonging to a multi-academy trust that could produce economies of scale for back office costs. I am sure this last point had many listeners chucking over their lessons plans or marking that excessive workloads force them to undertake, even at that early hour of a Saturday morning.

Frankly, the level of exchange was disappointing for those that probably know better, but live radio is, and especially on a show such as the Today Programme, where you need to make your point in headline terms if it is to have any impact, a challenging experience, as I know from the couple of times I have taken part in such discussions over the years. On this occasion the head teacher had the better of the exchanges in my view

As I reported in my last post, ‘Thin Gruel’, schools were never likely to do well out of the budget and the two protagonists skirted about the issue of what effect any rise in pay that was not properly funded would have on school budgets by next September and especially in 2019. The strongest point schools have in the funding debate: falling interest in teaching as a career and levels of exit from the profession that are not as low as they were a few years ago should have been centre stage. As it wasn’t the Policy Exchange researcher never really had to address the macroeconomic point about paying more to boost the supply of teachers and what might need to be cut to find the cash? The head was probably too polite to point out the £800 million going to support students in higher education might have been as well used in schools and early years. However, as I pointed out in the previous post, this cash was needed to deal with the political fight between Labour and the conservatives for the undergraduate vote.

What is needed now is some research looking forward at school budgets for the next three to four years and identifying how many schools will be in deficit budgets by then unless action is taken. The government should then be firmly asked for a list of where cuts should be made. The electorate will then decide and schools that followed the government’s advice will know where to send complaining parents.

 

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Thin gruel

With not much cash to give away plus an increasing school population to fund over the next few years, schools and education were always going to have to whistle for much more than a few handouts from the Chancellor’s budget. Especially after more than three-quarters of a billion pounds had been guaranteed to win the battle with Labour for the undergraduate student vote.

So, as predicted here over the weekend, re-training for 8,000 IT teachers was one of the education headlines. How the money is to be spent will affect recruitment from September 2018, with the bulk of the cash being spent between September 2019 and the summer of 2020. £85 million, not the £100million mentioned over the weekend, has been included in the Treasury Red Book. The mathematics bonus won’t come into effect until autumn 2019 and is so arranged that it is of no help to the funds of 11-16 schools. I wonder whether it will be paid on registrations or numbers taking and passing examinations, in which case it won’t be paid until the summer of 2021. The devil will be in the detail, but don’t start spending the cash anytime soon.

The other proposals for maths schools look embryonic and a bit last minute. The CPD bonus for some teachers is interesting, but will only buy around 3-4 days of input, unless some special deals can be arranged. If cover has to be included as well, then it will not even buy that amount of professional development: perhaps it will be on-line in a teacher’s spare time. In that case, will the teacher associations veto involvement as it would be seen as adding to a teacher’s workload? Will teaching schools; MATs; providers or the private sector administer the Scheme?

Personally, I would have placed an emphasis on adding to the maths knowledge and skills of primary school teachers where I think this extra money could have achieved the most good. But, at this level of funding it looks like mere window dressing whatever use is made of it.

The real disappointment is the lack of any further increase in school funding. I am surprised the Chancellor didn’t mention the School Vacancy Service as a means of saving school’s money: missed a trick there. Perhaps he didn’t believe that the ‘fingers crossed’ reference by the Permanent Secretary at The Public Accounts Committee was a strong enough commitment to actually achieving something really workable in 2018. Not to worry, TeachVac’s free service to schools and teachers is already doing the job for the government and at no cost to the Exchequer.

The lack of progress on pay needs to be remedied by an early Pay Review Report, because when the budget was in the spring it was late in the recruitment season for announcements to affect decision-making by teachers. A November budget may well prompt teachers ahead of the 2018 recruitment round to consider their future career moves. My advice to head teachers is to dust off the rules about recruitment and retention allowances as they offer a way around the pay problems for schools that have the cash.

 

 

Shifting sands

The news that the public sector pay cap is effectively dead in the water should come as helpful news for schools facing recruitment issues. I have already suggested that the use of recruitment and retention allowances could be a way around the present pay cap as it was in previous times of recruitment difficulty. Such measures are often unfair on teachers already at the school, but they also recognise the additional costs of taking up a first job or a new position in a different area.

Of course, the cost of these measures, as I suspect with the relaxing of the pay cap, will no doubt have to come from existing school budgets. I don’t see the government offering large amounts of additional funds to schools when the pupil population is on the rise and that increase has to be paid for regardless of whatever else happens. This may mean larger classes; fewer small optional subjects and the continued encouragement of older and more expensive teachers to consider early retirement so that they can be replaced by younger cheaper teachers that no longer need a guaranteed annual salary increase.  I don’t think the Teacher Supply modelling process has taken this last factor into account and it may be partly why demand has outstripped supply in some subjects.

This blog was one of the first to catch on to the penal management fee the government has inflicted on those with student loans from this month. So, it is also good news that over the weekend there has been suggestions that the government will look again at the 3.1% rate. I hope that they will bring it into line with management fees on other financial products. Even so, many families might still find extending the mortgage on the family home a cheaper option that taking out a student loan.

Reintroducing maintenance grants for those from low income families attending university is also a sensible suggestion. Far more sensible that Labour’s idea of abolishing fees and paying for the university education of those young people whose families have been happy to pay for their education up to that point in time. I know the issue that post eighteen they are adults, but as the recent NUS Report on FE launched by Vince Cable showed, there are more deserving areas of limited government funding than paying for those that have not needed or wanted to use the State for education up to the point of entry into higher education.

The other area the government needs to reconsider is the funding of trainee teachers. The lack of any coherent policy between Teach First, School Direct and SCITTs and university courses is damaging to recruitment. A common policy of fees paid by the government and a training bursary for all graduates is both clear and coherent and worked well after 2002 when it became government policy. It has no more deadweight funding attached to it than any other government employment area where new entrants are paid a proper salary during their training period. The Treasury should be reminded of that fact. It is just that the numbers are so large.  However, cutting wastage through better retention of new teachers means that the scheme could even be self-financing if trainee numbers could be significantly reduced over time.

Public service and public pay

As schools across the country return for the start of their new school year, and all that is associated with that annual event: the end of summer and often the return of good weather; increased traffic congestion on the roads and the ending of the seemingly endless adverts for school uniforms, the issue of pay is dominating the headlines once again.

Earlier today I was on BBC radio Kent in a discussion with the County NUT branch secretary (or should that now be The EU Secretary for the Education Union?) about why the county has so many vacant headship positions. Salary came up as one possible reason. In days of yore, whether Arthur Jarman was a senior officer for the NUT, he always used to remind me that the NUT had more head teacher members than any other association. I don’t know whether that is still the case as a result of many teachers retaining membership of both the teacher association that they joined on entering the profession and also joining one of the associations for school leaders when they reached their first leadership post.

During our discussion on-air we disagreed about how well paid primary head teachers are today. I don’t think many of the heads, especially heads of smaller primary schools, are well paid for what is required of them. Those that have to teach and well as lead the school have two very distinct jobs for which they are often not well rewarded.

We did agree on the question of the pay of some CEOs of MATs, something I have commented on before on this blog. We didn’t have time to discuss whether the one per cent pay cap may finally be on the way out. It will be interesting to see what the Secretary of State will say in the remit letter to the STRB in relation to their consideration of a pay award for 2018? The past two STRB Reports have been expressing issues with the continued effect of the pay cap but have remained faithful to their remit.

At the school level, I am surprised that more use hasn’t been made of recruitment and retention payments that were popular in London during earlier recruitment crises. Golden hellos were also used in the past, along with relocation funding for those moving into an area and requiring to set up a new home.

These days, we can no longer track just the 151 local authority recruitment offers, but must also look at what MATs are offering. Do Regional School Commissioners have a role in making sure potential staff know what is on offer? TeachVac is happy to provide a space for this on its website and has started by identifying Suffolk’s recruitment link on TeachVac’s new blog (www.teachvac.wordpress.com).  Why Suffolk, just because they asked me last year to come and talk about recruitment challenges to their head teacher conference.

In the short-term, offering to pay the fees of all graduate trainees and paying a training bursary to all might aid recruitment even if the Treasury cavilled about the deadweight cost of such a move.

 

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.

Confusion over future pay

The confusion over the future of the public sector 1% pay cap that apparently highlighted differences between the Treasury and other ministers yesterday is but one symptom of the malaise at the heart of the present government. We are used to hearing of –U- turns, but what do we call a double reversal of intent since the term spin has already been appropriated in the political landscape?

Nevertheless, it is clear that pay and associated conditions of service for teachers cannot for ever avoid the effects of competition in a labour market while we live in a society where the State doesn’t direct the job you have to take.

While the labour market remains buoyant, and especially the graduate labour market, it does seem inevitable that any ceiling on pay will have adverse effects. Later today, the June data on recruitment to teacher preparation courses starting this autumn will be published and that will be another straw in the wind. Regular readers will know that I don’t expect the data to be very encouraging in terms of meeting the government’s modelling over numbers needed to be recruited.

Eventually, the pay cap in education will have to go. The government can fudge the change by making changes to the overall structure through, for instance, initiatives such as loan forgiveness schemes that reduce a new entrant’s monthly outgoings by taking over their student debt. However, that won’t help older teachers and encouraging experienced teachers to remain in the profession may be as important as attracting new entrants, if you want a balanced age profile in the profession reflecting both experience and new ideas.

Then there is the question of regional pay. Should London pay rates go up faster than those elsewhere in the country because the London area is where the problem of recruitment is most severe? The data in a previous post about percentages of unqualified teachers might support this thesis, but it could also be down to academies in London looking for a different mix of skills not adequately provided by the subjects identified in the Teacher Supply Model? Should we pay more to secondary school teachers than those that work in primary schools? Traditionally that hasn’t been the case and there seems little evidence that freeing academies form national pay rates has altered the pay landscape very much, except in one specific area.

Senior staff pay in schools, as much as elsewhere in society, doesn’t seem to have been subject to the same degree of pay restraint as classroom teachers have experienced over the past decade. I don’t buy the view that adding one or two schools to a Multi Academy Trust requires the Chief Executive to receive a pay rise to compensate for extra responsibilities.

Since academies are national schools, the government should look at whether chief officer pay in MATs is governed by any specific restrictions and whether there is at least a moral obligation to follow the government’s line on pay restraint while it is still in force.

Perhaps a learned body or a university research team could produce some pay guidelines for chief officers of MATs that relate their pay and conditions to those of chief officers in local authority Children’s Services? They might even be included in the Top Salaries Review Body since these staff in MATs are paid from government funds.

 

 

26th STRB Report published

The School Teachers’ Pay Review Report, sent to the government at the end of April, was finally published today. I posted a blog on the 24th May wondering about its non-appearance. My speculation was that it might contain some facts and conclusions on teacher supply, recruitment and retention that would make uncomfortable reading for Minister. In one sense this has proved to be the case.

Although the STRB finally conclude:

Taking all these factors into account, and balancing risks to recruitment and retention against the importance of giving schools time to plan for managing a higher uplift, we judge there would be significant risks associated with a recommendation this year for an uplift of more than 1% to the national pay framework.

However the next paragraph provides something of a warning to Ministers by commenting:

However, if current recruitment and retention trends continue, we expect an uplift to the pay framework significantly higher than 1% will be required in the course of this Parliament to ensure an adequate supply of good teachers for schools in England and Wales. Accordingly, we recommend the Department, and our consultees take steps to help schools prepare for such an eventuality

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/535042/55621_School_Teachers_Accessible.pdf

It is difficult to make a clearer statement than that about what’s happening to teachers’ pay. The Report is mostly silent on the issue of conditions of service. Whether government will listen is another matter.

The Report was, of course, prepared before the Referendum vote and the economic shocks that are beginning to affect the markets. In that respect, I am reminded of the consequences of the oil price shock in 1972 and what it did for the British economy. In those days the London Stock Exchange had but one index of share price movement, the FT 30 Index, made up of 30 leading shares. It used a geometric rather than arithmetic mean as the basis of its calculations, thus in some cases understating the magnitude of any change. Even so, the market collapsed from a high in 1972 of 543.6 to a low on January 6th 1975, when most traders returned after the holiday break, of just 146. This was a slide in under three years of some 80% in real terms after inflation. It also followed the two general elections of 1974

Hopefully, the departure from Europe won’t create such a fall in the value of shares and the knock-on effects on the rest of the economy, but if it does, then who knows what will happen to teacher supply? The pound dollar rate has already fallen from the 1.40s:1 rate before the referendum to under 1.30:1 as I write and there is an emerging consensus it will end 2016 at around 1.16:1 or $1.16 per £1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36721278 There are even some pessimists predicting the £ will fall below parity with the dollar.

All of this is a way of saying that the STRB Report, although interesting, could be consigned to the dustbin of history. Economic downturns have a history of attracting recruits into teaching and persuading those already there to stay. Will that happen; who knows. An alternative scenario is that with a relatively young profession, many abandon teaching here and head for jobs overseas where their skills might be better rewarded and they can save for a return sometime in the future. I guess we will all have to watch and wait, that is except for those that take action and do something.