Teachers' fury at basic pay rise

By Danielle NuttallA UNION official warned last night teacher shortages in Suffolk could worsen following a pay rise which will see basic teaching salaries increase by just 2.

By Danielle Nuttall

A UNION official warned last night teacher shortages in Suffolk could worsen following a pay rise which will see basic teaching salaries increase by just 2.9%.

Martin Goold, county secretary of the National Union of Teachers, accused the Government of turning its back on the current teaching crisis by offering a pay rise in line with inflation from April.

The increase was announced by Education Secretary Charles Clarke yesterday, but was immediately met by criticism from union leaders, who said it would do nothing to ease recruitment problems.

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It came on the same day it was revealed the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, had been awarded a 12.6% pay rise - more than four times the inflation rate - to increase his salary by £22,000 to £202,736 a year.

The pay deal means the starting salaries for new teachers in schools in East Anglia will be £18,105.

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Mr Goold said: “We have in Suffolk over 100 teacher vacancies unfilled at the moment. We are concerned as over the next eight and nine years about 40% of the teaching profession are due to retire.

“I think it's unbelievable the Government would not wish to continue to address the problems of teacher recruitment and retention with a higher increase.

“All I can say is that the crisis in teacher vacancies will get worse in Suffolk as well as everywhere else.”

Mr Goold said the 2.9% increase in teacher's basic pay had come as no surprise as it had been

It was recommended by the School Teachers' Review Body, which was under heavy pressure from ministers to come up with a proposal that reflected the Government's determination to keep a lid on public sector pay increases.

David Ruffley, the Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, has already warned almost 2,000 teachers could quit the county's schools by 2008.

His warning came after a survey conducted by MORI and the General Teaching Council found one in three of all teachers expected to leave the profession within five years, protesting about workload, Government interference and poor pupil behaviour.

Mr Ruffley said: “Since Labour came to power, Suffolk's schools have been burdened with unnecessary paperwork, gimmicky initiatives and arbitrary targets imposed by Whitehall civil servants.

“Worse, school discipline has been undermined by Whitehall preventing unruly pupils from being expelled. As a result, this worrying new survey reveals that a third of all teachers may quit in the next five years.”

But education officials said teaching vacancies in the county had reduced by more than 60 compared to this time last year.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said a survey carried out last month had showed there were 107.5 full-time equivalent posts vacant across Suffolk, compared with 172.1 this time last year.

She added as a percentage of the teacher workforce - including primary, middle and secondary schools - of about 5,500, that represented a vacancy rate of 1.98%.

Tony Lewis, a member of the county council's executive committee, said: “Our challenge areas at the moment are maths teachers at secondary schools and senior posts generally - a situation that is to be found all over the country.

“However, I am pleased that we have kept a high number of teachers in permanent posts and it proves the worth of the different strategies we are using to 'grow our own' teachers as well as using traditional recruitment methods.”

Mr Clarke acknowledged the inflation-only basic rise reflected the need to finance the school working practice reforms.

They will see assistants classes on their own to give teachers time to

prepare lessons and mark work during the school day instead of in the evenings or over weekends.

“This pay award will support the national agreement on school workforce reform which we concluded last month with the local authority employers and the great majority of teacher and support staff unions,” said Mr Clarke.

“We made clear in the autumn that it was vital for schools to have enough room in their budgets to get on with the school workforce remodelling in 2003-4. The national pay award of 2.9% will assist that.

“It will help schools begin to address workload issues, which teachers consistently rate higher than pay as a priority to be tackled.”


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