Union warning over teacher pay shake-up

A SHAKE-UP in teachers' pay could lead to a major staff crisis in Essex schools, a union warned yesterday .The Government is bringing in new pay scales for teachers based on teaching and learning responsibilities and has ordered every school to carry out a review of staffing rather than automatically transferring staff to the new grades.

By Juliette Maxam

A SHAKE-UP in teachers' pay could lead to a major staff crisis in Essex schools, a union warned yesterday .

The Government is bringing in new pay scales for teachers based on teaching and learning responsibilities and has ordered every school to carry out a review of staffing rather than automatically transferring staff to the new grades.

Schools have been given one term to review existing staff structures, draw up new proposals and fully consult with teachers.

Everything has to be in place by December 31, although schools then have three years to implement the new structure, during which current pay levels will be protected.

The National Union of Teachers has warned the new system will lead to loss of pay for thousands of teachers, loss of pension for many, three years of confusion in school staffing and fewer promotion prospects in the future.

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Yesterday NUT Essex executive member Jerry Glazier said the union is prepared to ballot for strike action if teachers are unhappy with the new structures.

He said the vast majority of headteachers in Essex have assimilated the old Management Allowances (MA) structure into the new more expensive Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR) payments system.

But he warned: “We think it will be wholly detrimental to the recruitment and retention of teachers in the county. Some schools are taking out promoted posts which will result in possibly a decade of promotion dearth.

“Younger teachers are saying: 'What promotion opportunities are we going to have?' These teachers are not going to suffer in cash terms, but it's very detrimental to their career development and career prospects.”

He said Essex is always vulnerable to teacher recruitment and retention problems because of its proximity to London. It is a particular worry considering the age profile of teachers in the county, with half due to retire in the next 10 years.

Richard Thomas, acting chairman of the Association of Secondary Headteachers in Essex, said: “Our concern as heads would be that the timescale was ridiculous and ill advised.

“Something of this nature needed a little more communication and thought if it's going to develop strategies for the future.

“Most heads have worked very hard to implement this because of their own commitment to staff - to staff morale and retention of good teachers, which in this area is a key issue.”

Schools have found ways round the new criteria for pay increases, such as re-naming heads of year as learning managers and making them responsible for student progress within year groups.

But Mr Thomas said a small percentage of teachers would be adversely affected by the new pay scales.

He added: “It's creating difficulties for heads in terms of managing the budgets, especially if budgets are already tight.”

Claire Claydon, vice chairman of Essex Primary Heads Association, said the new system will have an impact on school budgets since the lowest TLR scale is more than £1,000 higher than the lowest MA point.

But a spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: “Schools have been aware of the requirement to review staffing structures by December 31, 2005 since May this year.

“To assist schools with their review the rewards and incentives Group members, comprising representatives of some teacher unions, the employers and the DfES have produced guidance, regional conferences, a self assessment toolkit and contact details to help LEAs.

“There is nothing in the statutory provisions that require additional costs to schools. Schools have flexibility to implement their restructuring plan as they see fit within the implementation period and full discretion over the posts they offer within their review.”

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