Teachers to get less pay even after raise, warns think tank

A teacher wearing a face shield works on the first day of school at Holne Chase Primary School, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Milton Keynes, Britain, September 3, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Boyers
A teacher wearing a face shield at Holne Chase Primary School, during an outbreak of the coronavirus disease. Reuters/Andrew Boyers

The UK government’s pledge to raise the starting salary for teachers to £30,000 ($39,000) by 2023 actually amounts to real-terms pay cuts for more experienced teachers because of inflation, a think tank has warned.

With inflation rapidly rising, the government’s proposals for teacher pay in 2022 and 2023 are forecast to deliver a 5% real-terms cut in salaries for more experienced teachers between 2021 and 2023, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said.

This would mean that more experienced teachers end up with a 14% real-terms pay cut between 2010 and 2023.

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In today’s prices, this is the equivalent of a £7,000 pay cut from £46,000 to £39,000 for classroom teachers at the top of the pay scale between 2010 and 2023.

While proposals include large rises in starting salaries of around 16% between 2021 and 2023, the proposed increases for more experienced teachers are much lower, at 3% in 2022 and 2% 2023.

This equates to an average award across all teachers of just under 4% in 2022.

Luke Sibieta, research fellow at the IFS said: “The government’s proposals for teacher pay in 2022 and 2023 would enable them to deliver on a manifesto commitment to raise starting salaries to £30,000. However, smaller pay rises of 2-3% per year for most other teachers are likely to represent real-terms cuts and would follow on from more than a decade of real-terms pay cuts.

“There is also a risk that the highly unstable geopolitical and economic situation pushes inflation higher still.”

The increases would take the starting salary for qualified teachers from £25,714 to £30,000 in September 2023 — fulfilling a promise made in the 2019 Conservative election manifesto although a year later than promised.

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The Department for Education said that the pay rises would only improve retention rates by 0.25%, with just 1,000 more teachers staying in the profession.

The IFS report said an increase in school funding of close to £4bn in 2022 means there is room for a higher pay award within planned school budgets.

Earlier this week, Patrick Roach, teachers' union NASUWT general secretary, said the cost-of-living crisis squeeze was driving teachers into financial hardship and compounding staffing issues.

“Uncompetitive pay levels are contributing to a worsening picture on teacher supply," he said.

A survey by the trade union revealed that over half of teachers reported having to cut back their expenditure on food during 2021, with some having to resort to using food banks or other forms of charitable assistance.

Other key workers face the prospect of being paid less this year than last, according to the Trades Union Congress.

In real terms nurses are £2,700 worse off than in 2010, the TUC has calculated. Care workers employed by local authorities are more than £1,600 a year worse off, it added.

Frances O'Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: "Hard work should pay for everyone. But millions of key workers — on the frontline of the pandemic — face another year of wages gloom. That is not right.

"The government must stop burying its head and get pay rising across the economy. Ministers cannot abandon families during this cost-of-living crisis."

Inflation across 2022-23 as a whole could be 7.6%, significantly above the 6.2% forecast by the Bank of England just last month. It currently stands at 5.5%

Watch: How does inflation affect interest rates?