Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on today’s talks between education unions and officials at the Department for Education over teacher and leader pay, recruitment and retention, and potential industrial action.
“We have had constructive talks with Department for Education officials, but officials cannot make any political decisions and it is political decisions that are needed to avert strikes and address the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.
“What we have heard is that the department is pessimistic about the prospect of there being any additional money available over and above the extra funding for schools in the autumn statement. Its assessment is that much of that money will, in fact, be taken up by the high cost of energy bills, leaving very little left over for any significant improvement to pay.
“This would mean that not only is there no improvement to this year’s pay award – which was substantially below the rate of inflation – but the prospects appear gloomy for next year’s pay award too.
“The only solution therefore is a political intervention to make more money available.
“The government has to recognise that we are currently caught in a death spiral of a long-term decline in the real value of pay and a consequent teacher recruitment and retention crisis which is putting educational provision and standards at risk.
“We also discussed non-pay matters such as the fierce accountability regime that schools are subjected to through performance tables and Ofsted inspections, and which contributes to workload pressures. If steps could be taken to make the system less harsh and punitive that would be a welcome move in the right direction. But we’re not convinced that politicians have the appetite to address these issues.
“Time is pressing. The first day of NEU strike action takes place on 1 February.
“Politicians must urgently take positive action to resolve the dispute and do the right thing for schools, staff and children.”