Teachers acted “heroically” during the pandemic and freezing their pay calls into question whether their public service is genuinely valued, education experts warned today.
This has led to a huge backlash from other public sector workers including police and teachers.
One former headteacher said the decision to freeze school workers’ pay will demotivate some and could cause teachers to leave the profession, or think twice before joining it
It comes after schools provided a focal point for disorientated communities during the lockdown, while teachers delivered food and books to people’s homes, looked after vulnerable children and helped youngsters suffering with anxiety, Derek Peaple, former head of Park House school in Newbury said.
During the crisis teachers and school leaders have gone “above and beyond” for children, a headteachers group said.
A spokeswoman for the NAHT said they have “totally redesigned” the way they work, moving from face-to-face teaching to distance learning, either online or with work posted through letterboxes.
She added: “They have supported families brought to their knees, even delivering food to some homes.”
Mr Peaple, who is now head of online safety firm SafeToNet, told the Evening Standard: “News of a pay freeze sits uncomfortably with these heightened responsibilities and accountabilities. There are the immediate concerns about the impact this could have on motivation and, ultimately teacher retention and recruitment. But it also raises a number of even more fundamental questions. Is their public service genuinely valued and recognised? And how does this decision align with the recalibration of wider values and social purpose that we appeared to see emerging during the first phase of lockdown?”
Many schools remained open during the first lockdown for children of keyworkers and vulnerable children, while lessons for the majority of children moved online almost overnight.
A spokeswoman for the NAHT added: “During lockdown, away from the media noise, teachers and school leaders have proven how essential they are to society, and demonstrated their dedication and resilience.”
Mr Peaple added: “Teachers, like other public service workers, have responded heroically to the unprecedented challenges that society has faced since March. Since then they, and their schools, have provided a focal point for otherwise disorientated communities. Indeed, they have perhaps offered the one source of certainly and security in an otherwise wholly uncertain and insecure world.
“Under relentless pressure and ever-changing guidelines, teachers have continued to offer continuity of education for young people, whilst taking on new responsibility for their students’ health and wellbeing, and managing the anxieties of the wider communities that they serve.”
While national chairman of the Police Federation John Apter called the move to freeze pay "a disgrace" that did nothing to show appreciation for public sector workers who had kept the country going amid the pandemic.
He said: "After years of austerity and a real terms pay cut of 18%, today's news will be a kick in the teeth for police officers.
"This year my colleagues have been on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19, protecting the public and putting their own safety and the safety of their families at risk. Despite the warm words and the weekly applause for key workers, it seems to count for nothing.
"We are realists; we know that the country is facing a difficult economic future. But rewarding those who have played a vital role in the fight against the virus with a pay freeze is nothing short of a disgrace.
"A handful of officers will get the additional £250 for the lowest paid workers, but only those who are already on an appallingly low starting salary for the dangerous job they do.
"I appreciate the devil will be in the detail, but the headlines from today's announcement does nothing to show appreciation to police officers and other public sector workers who have kept the wheels turning during 2020."