Teachers have a huge impact on children’s futures, and I want all our children to be taught by the brightest and the best. I am aware that, during the Covid-19 pandemic, teachers and educational staff faced many challenges and played an incredible role in ensuring that children have continued to receive a fantastic education.
The Secretary of State for Education continues to work with Cabinet colleagues to seek a fair and reasonable resolution to the pay dispute with teachers. Teachers in England have rejected a pay offer from the Government that would have seen salaries rise by 4.5 per cent on average next year, alongside a one-off payment of £1,000 for this year. The offer was funded, including major new investment of over half a billion pounds, and helps tackle issues teachers are facing like workload.
Members of the National Education Union (NEU) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) have voted to turn down the offer. The unions also rejected an offer to create a new taskforce to help reduce workload by an average of five hours a week for teachers and leaders. The decision is disappointing and means less money for teachers this year and possible disruption to students preparing for exams. Furthermore, it is extremely disappointing that the NEU are re-balloting for more strike action up until Christmas this year.
Teacher pay for next year will now go through an independent pay review process as usual. The School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) makes recommendations on the pay of teachers in England and reports to the Secretary of State for Education and the Prime Minister. As is normal, the STRB will look only at pay for next year, meaning teachers will not receive a one-off payment for this year (2022 to 2023). Pay rises for teachers in the 2023/24 academic year must strike a careful balance between recruiting and retaining the best teachers and recognising their vital importance, alongside considering both affordability for schools and the wider economic context.
The Department for Education does not set pay for non-teaching staff in schools. Employers have the freedom to determine the most appropriate pay and conditions to suit their circumstances. Most schools use the local government pay scales and employers are required to pay at least the statutory minimum wage. However, the Department does encourage employers to pay more when they can afford to do so.
The Department for Education is aware of the challenges that teachers have faced over the past three years. As such, I welcome that the Department is taking action to support teachers to stay in the profession and thrive. This includes the increase in pay, as well as the launch of the Education Staff Well-being Charter. The charter is a set of commitments from the Department, Ofsted, schools and colleges to promote the well-being of staff. This includes pledges to work with the sector to drive down unnecessary workload, improve access to well-being resources, and champion flexible working, among a number of other actions. More than 2,350 schools have signed up to the Charter since it was launched in November 2021.
The Department has also published the workload reduction toolkit, developed alongside school leadership staff to help reduce workload, and resources to support schools to implement effective flexible working practices. Additionally, before the Covid-19 pandemic, average teacher and head teacher working hours reduced by five hours per week over the previous three years, as found by the Teacher Workload Survey in 2019.
I understand that the Department is also offering state-funded schools and colleges to grant pay for senior mental health lead training, providing skills and knowledge to implement a 'whole school or college approach' to mental health and well-being in a setting. Further, the Department is supporting staff well-being and is funding peer support, individual supervision and counselling from experts to school leaders through the charity 'Education Support'. Over 1,000 head teachers have benefited from this programme. Education Support also provides a free helpline for school staff.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank teachers again for their remarkable commitment throughout the difficult times over the past three years.