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Teacher pay: Keegan wants ‘more sustainable’ rise next year

Teacher pay awards should return to a “more sustainable level” than seen in the last two years, the government has told the School Teachers Review Body.

The Department for Education has also revealed it believes there is only headroom in budgets for the next financial year for schools to raise spending by 1.2 per cent or £600 million.

Ministers have previously estimated that each 1 percentage point increase in teacher pay costs about £270 million.

The revelations suggest the government is gearing up for a fresh battle with unions, which have already voiced concerns ministers are seeking to “constrain” the STRB’s recommendations.

In her remit letter to the STRB in December, education secretary Gillian Keegan said the body must consider evidence on the “impact of pay rises on schools’ budgets” when making its recommendations for pay from September 2024.

In its evidence to the STRB, published today, the DfE went further, pointing out teachers’ average pay had risen by over 12 per cent over the past two years. Starting salaries have increased by 17 per cent over the same period.

The department also pointed to a doubling to £6,000 of levelling up premium payments to teachers of certain subjects, and said those who had also moved up pay bands in the last two years could have seen rises of up to 32 per cent.

Big rises in 2022 and 2023 ‘appropriate’

They said the rises of 5 per cent for most teachers in 2022 and 6.5 per cent last year were “appropriate and the right decision to reward teachers and leaders for their hard work, to support recruitment and retention, and to continue to make teaching an attractive career”.

But the “wider economic context has moderated, with inflation more than halving from its peak in late 2022 and wage growth easing from the high levels seen in the summer of 2023”.

Inflation is forecast to average 2.1 per cent over the 2024-25 academic year, and an increase in unemployment is “expected to ease the level of vacancies across the private and public sector, supporting recruitment and retention”.

“Considering the above, it is the department’s view that the overall reward package for teachers, the recruitment and retention picture, and the more stable economic context support the return of teacher pay awards to a more sustainable level than the previous two historically high pay awards.

“The STRB should be mindful that pay awards achieve a careful balance between recognising the vital importance of public sector workers, whilst delivering value for the taxpayer and not increasing the country’s debt further.”

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