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Teachers’ pay rises should ‘return to more sustainable level’, says Government

The Government has said teachers’ pay rises should “return to a more sustainable level”.

The statement, made to the independent School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), was labelled “deeply concerning” by a school leaders’ union.

Last July, the Government agreed to implement the STRB’s recommendation of a 6.5% increase for teachers in England, and co-ordinated strike action by four education unions was called off.

In 2022, the Government announced a 5% pay rise for experienced teachers, with the starting salary outside London rising by 8.9%.

Now the Department for Education said in evidence published on Thursday that it is appropriate for teacher pay awards to “return to a more sustainable level” after “two unprecedented years”.

The Government said: “Pay awards should strike a balance between providing a fair and reasonable offer for public sector workers whilst delivering value for the taxpayer and being mindful of the wider economic situation.”

The pay rises in the previous two years were “appropriate and the right decision” in the “context of the exceptional macroeconomic environment in recent years”.

But it added: “However, the wider economic context has moderated, with inflation more than halving from its peak in late 2022 and wage growth easing from the high levels seen in the summer of 2023.

“While the economy fared better over the last year than many forecasts initially predicted, it ended 2023 in a technical recession.”

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts that inflation will continue to ease, averaging 2.1% over the next academic year, and an “increase in unemployment is expected to ease the level of vacancies across the private and public sector, supporting recruitment and retention”.

The DfE said: “Given this economic outlook over 2024/25, and following two unprecedented years, it is appropriate for teacher pay awards to also return to a more sustainable level.

“As well as thinking about the external context, the STRB will also want to consider the wider factors that make teaching an attractive career, and that are supporting and improving the competitiveness of the teacher reward package.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The Department for Education’s evidence, stating that next year’s teacher pay award must be ‘more sustainable’ will be deeply concerning for professionals.

“For over a decade, teachers and leaders have grappled with real-terms pay cuts in the face of a cost-of-living crisis, and sky-high inflation.

“The consequences of this are now being felt through a full-blown recruitment and retention crisis.

“The point made about a predicted slowdown in inflation shows how out of touch ministers are. They must wake up and realise that last year’s award is not anywhere close to the ‘correction’ needed – teachers and leaders need a series of competitive pay awards that restore over a decade of lost pay.

“School leaders will rightly be angry that once again, the Government has decided to abuse and undermine confidence in the statutory pay process with a late submission.

“We hope Government will at least show investment in the next generation in the budget.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have now published our written evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body which will inform their recommendations for teachers’ pay award in 2024/25.

“Last year we delivered on the manifesto commitment to give every new teacher a starting salary of at least £30,000 – alongside the highest pay award for teachers in over 30 years.”