Pay flexibilities for teachers

According to the DfE’s evidence to the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) only 64%, just fewer than two out of three schools, pay any of their staff Teaching & Learning Responsibility allowances (TLRs as they are usually known). I guess that most of the remaining nearly 8,000 or so schools are mostly small primary schools, with only a handful of teachers and a head teacher?

Interestingly, some of these schools may be making other payments, as the DfE record that 75.2% of all schools make some form of payment to some of their teaching staff. Indeed, there are more schools making ‘other payments’ than are using the SEN payments allowed under the teacher’s contract. Less than one in five school now make any such SEN payment to teachers.

Even less common, despite all the talk about a recruitment crisis, is the use of recruitment and retention payments to teachers; only one in ten schools across England makes such a payment. However, the percentage does rise to one in five schools in the Inner London area – That’s not technically a region and the DfE evidence doesn’t define what it means by Inner London and whether it is pay area or some other definition. By contrast, only one in twenty schools in the South West makes any payments to a teacher or teachers for recruitment and retention reasons.

Do schools make use of HMRC exemptions from tax for new employees? ( This allowance can be helpful to those teachers and school leaders moving to a new part of the country. Such payments would, presumably, be reported in the ‘other payments’ column of the  DfE’s evidence along with season ticket loans, any health benefits and car allowances to teachers in teaching schools or providing ITT support that have to travel between schools.

None of these extra payments can hide the fact that the teachers’ contract looks increasingly out of line with modern day employment practices. As I pointed out last year, Labour’s idea of more bank holidays might have placed some of the new dates within school holidays so that teachers and others employed in schools wouldn’t have seen any benefit. Regular surveys and diary studies have shown that teachers work very hard during the time children are in school and aren’t paid for that overtime. Should it be counted against school-holidays in a more formal manner than at present in order to allow a meaningful discussion about the feeling of some in the population that teachers still enjoy long holidays?

Perhaps the STRB might want to think what their responsibility is in this debate? Do they need to wait to be asked or can they discuss the issue as part of their consideration of recruitment and retention issues? There is lots of evidence for the OECD about teachers working patterns around the world. The issue has resonance because of the growing appreciation that more provision should be made for teachers’ professional development. Adding CPD to the existing workload without considering what might disappear to allow for the extra study would not really be very helpful.



Workload matters

The NfER has issued the third in their series of research updates on teacher recruitment and retention – scroll down the page for the download of the report.

The headline finding is that ‘on average, teachers’ pay doesn’t increase after they leave’. The authors suggest that this means leavers are not primarily motivated by increased pay. ‘Teachers appear to be more motivated by improved job satisfaction, reduced working hours and more opportunities for flexible working’. This research chimes with my long-held view that there are three key factors in ensuring sufficiency in the teacher workforce: pay; conditions and morale. A government might be able to underplay one element, but to affect all three is to ensure a teacher supply crisis by increasing departure rates to a level where numbers leaving cannot be replaced by new entrants.

Looking deeper into the NfER research, it is interesting to see the three groups used on page 5 of the report as the main outcomes for departure. 43% of leavers from state schools remain in schools, with the bulk switching to teach in the private sector. Only 1.6% in the NfER study become teaching assistants. This is low compared to the 15% NfER found in another study using a different cohort of interviewees.

Overall, only 10% of teacher leavers went into other employment, with a further 5% becoming self-employed. This latter group are rather confusingly included in the economically inactive group of outcomes in this study. If anything, this whole group may be a smaller proportion than in the past when there were more active local advisory and inspection teams and more money was being spend on supporting professional development and research creating more job opportunities. However, there will always be a need for some people with a teaching background to move into other careers. As with the switch to teaching in private schools, it would have been helpful to try to assess whether the percentages discovered in this survey were increasing or declining over recent times?

Finally, the percentage leaving the labour market and becoming economically inactive amounted to 49% of the total, with retirement account for 29% of the total for this group. Perhaps more significant was the 4% that reported being unemployed. Was this due to a partner’s move to an area where there were fewer teaching opportunities or down to having had enough of teaching as a career and taking stock before moving on? More analysis of this group would be illuminating, especially their profile and locations.

What is clear, as the National Audit Office reported earlier this year in their report, is that reducing departures from the profession helps alleviate the need to train more new entrants. The NfER research might have made it clearer that their study used data from a period when secondary school rolls were falling; it is interesting that they don’t have a category for ‘made redundant’, perhaps these teachers are in the ‘unemployed’ group.

With school rolls now on the increase, the messages from this research takes on a greater urgency and, as others have said, the use of part-time working opportunities for an increasingly female dominate classroom teacher workforce in secondary schools is becoming an area where schools now need to pay particular attention to what they can offer staff as it may help to retain some teachers. But, on the evidence of this study, the gain won’t be large. Even so, it is a necessary move.



How rich are teachers?

With the details of the 2016 School Workforce Survey still awaited, we have to turn to data on salaries from the 2015 Survey, effectively reflecting pay during the 2014-15 school-year. Using the published data from the DfE, it looks as if some 8,700 of the 484,000 teachers, where the State pays their salary and the figure was disclosed, earned more than £70,000 at the reporting point. This is the figure that makes you rich if Labour is to be believed. In total that represents just 2% of the teacher workforce. However, we cannot know how many of the 22,900 with unknown salaries, earn more than £70,000. But, since over half of those where the salary was unknown were younger than 30, they are unlikely to be amongst the highest paid teachers.

By contrast to the top 2%, some two thirds of employed teachers earned less than £40,000 at the census date in 2015. They are unlikely to have seen much of a pay rise since then. The top 2% earning more than £70,000 include teachers working in London, as the summary data takes no account of the extra salary paid to teachers working in the capital; presumably because of higher costs, especially housing. It was interesting that Labour when making the announcement about taxation didn’t have anything to say about workers in London. Presumably Labour believes you are still rich in London if you earn £70,000?

Of course, pay is a crude measure of rewards, as Labour found with its pay policies in the 1970s. Too draconian an anti-high pay regime and employers turn to non-monetary benefits. The cult of the company car owes a lot to pay policies in the 1970s, a period when teachers’ non-monetary benefits came to be seriously eroded compared with those of other workers.

Public sector pay, including that for teachers, may well become an issue in the general election campaign once everyone has decided where they stand on Europe and the Tories hard BREXIT stance. I suspect many voters already know how that issue will influence their voting, especially where there are local elections and it has already been discussed on the doorsteps, as it has in my part of Oxford. Voters will want something else to talk about over the next seven weeks.

The issue is whether the many young teachers, increasingly saddled with big student loan debts and trying to build their lives, feel well off? I suspect most don’t, especially in high cost areas outside of London, of which Oxford is one. How much of the increase in jobs for teachers is due to large numbers quitting the profession: we don’t know, but with other opportunities on offer why wouldn’t you, especially if workload and low morale are affecting how you see your job.

Perhaps the political party offering most on improving workload, CPD and morale might win the teachers’ vote this time around. Here’s what the 2015 Lib Dem offer was in 2015:

Guarantee all teachers in state-funded schools will be fully qualified or working towards Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) from September 2016

  • Introduce a clear and properly funded entitlement to professional development for all teachers
  • Raise the bar for entry to the profession, requiring a B grade minimum in GCSE maths and English
  • Establish a new profession-led Royal College of Teachers, eventually to oversee QTS and professional development.
  • Continue to support the Teach First programme
  • Establish a new National Leadership Institute

So certainly room for more this time around, especially on workload pressure; retaining teachers in the classroom and making everyone working in education feel properly valued as a public servant.

Readers are reminded that for the past four years I have been the Lib Dem spokesperson on education on Oxfordshire County Council.


Be a teacher: earn £12-15 per hour?

After an absence of a number of years, the DfE has once again conducted a diary survey of the workload of around 1,000 teachers.  That’s about 0.2% of the workforce. On average, all the school teachers surveyed reported working over 50 hours during the survey week, primary classroom teachers averaged 59.3 hours per week, slightly longer than the 55.7 hours averaged by secondary classroom teachers, and the 55.2 hours worked by classroom teachers in academies: both primary and secondary school head teachers reporting working more than 60 hours per week.  Classroom teachers in most school types reported teaching 19 to 20 hours a week. The exception to this was teachers in special schools who reported teaching 16.8 hours.

Teachers of all types worked around 12 hours a week outside what might be regarded as their normal working week. Head teachers spent around half of this time on school and staff management while classroom teachers spent at least three quarters of it on planning, preparation and assessment (PPA). Time spent on PPA was as common for classroom teachers in primary, secondary and academy schools as teaching at around a third of their total workload. The fact that despite the introduction of non-contact time in the primary sector some years ago teachers still report having to send time outside of the normal working week on these activities shows how intense the job has become.

However, as the dairy recorded a term-time week it would be different in weeks outside of the 190 days when pupils are present. As I have said in the past, teachers are required to work a form of employer directed flexi-time, with part of their so-called long holidays really being compensation for the extra hours worked during term time.

Teachers and heads generally thought the amount of time they spent on unnecessary and unnecessarily bureaucratic tasks had increased over the last 12 months, with 35.8% of head teachers and 44.6% of deputy and classroom teachers surveyed expressing this opinion.

The fact that preparation for Ofsted took time out of the working week for some teachers should be no surprise to anyone. The other big issue was over the data collection necessary for individual pupil tracking. There is clearly some way to go in some schools where the survey group worked to stop this becoming a tiresome burden for classroom teachers. Several years ago I advocated a new grade of data technician for schools to both collect and analyse data on behalf of classroom teachers. Despite handing budgets to schools, there still seems to be a way to go before this type of assistance permeates the sector as a whole.

If a classroom teacher works 60 hours a week for the 40 weeks of term-time then they will clock up 2,400 hours a year before counting any time spent on school work during the rest of the year, such as secondary teachers being present when examination results are handed over, or the five INSET days that are compulsory for all teachers. By contrast, an admin assistant working for 46 weeks a year at 40 hours per week will only work 1,840 hours a year. This means that if a teacher does work 2,500 hours per year, and earns £30,000, then their hourly rate is just £12. Even at 2,000 hours the rate is just £15 per hour.

Expect some hard pay bargaining in schools where this is the case now that national scales have been abolished. Many teachers might well be better off doing regular supply work rather than working at the bottom of the current scale. Indeed, it might be time to reassess the way that teachers’ contracts are established.