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Pay study embarrasses teaching unions

22 August 2012

The teaching unions like to dismiss talk of introducing regional pay to the public sector as a plan that will hit deprived areas hardest. Their fierce opposition to the plans touted by Michael Gove and other ministers threatens to crystallise into strike action should the government make any serious moves towards the changes.

But research from Bristol University published today changes the terms of the debate rather, as it suggests that pupils are paying the price for a national pay rate for teachers. The study, which compared pay to performance in around 3,000 schools, found that in areas where salaries in the private sector are significantly higher than in schools, pupils can drop one GCSE grade in one subject.

It says centralising pay creates a ‘ceiling’ for teachers working in affluent areas where private sector wages are higher, and could lead to schools in those areas struggling to recruit and retain good staff. The report concludes:

‘The number of pupils who would benefit from any gain in teacher performance, the fact that the associated gain in education will have returns over a long time period and the non-convexity in the response to wage regulation, means that the long term gains from the removal of regulation could be very large.’

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Schools minister Sarah Teather said this afternoon that ministers had asked the School Teachers’ Review Body ‘just to look at the evidence and look at what flexibility might be required’.

This is awkward for the unions because they now appear to be opposing something that looks like it could benefit pupils, although the NASUWT argued today that the report was actually based on flawed methodology. The unions also oppose performance-related pay – which is separate to the regional pay plans but could help schools retain the most talented staff – even though a Sutton Trust survey found in May that three quarters of teachers themselves backed linking annual salary increases to performance.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg may also find this uncomfortable. Back in May he said this:

‘National pay and conditions, combined with some flexibility for schools is the fairest and most efficient approach.’

The NUT’s ballot on whether to take industrial action over a very wide range of grievances with Michael Gove closes on 6 September. Among those issues is regional and local pay. If the ballot does return in support of strike action, it will be interesting to see whether the union leaders continue to cite regional pay following this study. Still more interesting will be whether Twigg feels it is politically expedient to support them, or whether he wishes to focus more on what ‘some flexibility for schools’ might mean.

P.S. After reading the NASUWT’s statement about ‘flawed methodology’ on their website, I fell upon this rather amusing error in a report about teachers’ morale:

The graph above might be something the union wants to have a chat about with its maths teacher members before it promotes it too widely as part of its ‘Standing up for Standards’ campaign…

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  • Holly

    A few tears ago, I said the teachers & the unions were against any changes that upped the standards, because this would make the duff teachers stand out, and they would no longer be able to hide behind the good ones.
    Unless the duffers & the unions have been on planet Zog for the last few years, they can not now start moaning that they didn’t ‘realise’ standards would be raised, or that some teachers are in line for their P45.
    It can not come fast enough as far as I’m concerned, because I would much rather have future students failing academically, because of their own limits, than be duped into believing they are ‘gifted’, only to discover they are not, when it is too late.
    Those who ‘fail’ are the one’s we rely on for the future success of the VITAL work in the country….Retail, leisure, travel & all the other miserable jobs.
    We need to get our priorities in the right order, and start valuing the jobs that don’t need years of further education. A job is a job is a job.
    And in ‘my world’ a job in a supermarket or factory is just as important as a job in finance, medicine or law. Even bankers, doctors, solicitors & lawyers rely on those who do the mundane stuff in life.
    Just a thought.

  • James Strachan

    I am a governor of a school in Cambridge – definitely a high cost area.
    Our last principal regularly visited friends with the same job in Carlisle.
    She used to complain that her friends in the North could afford a far better lifestyle on the same salary.
    Regional pay DOES make sense.

  • Periculosus

    So, lets put all our best teachers in affluent areas. After all the children from poor areas don’t need the best teachers working there do they?
    What nonsense. Surely the flexibility to change regional pay would be best used to attract the best teachers to the lowest performing areas.
    And all the report seems to suggest is that the better teachers (ie those who get the children to make the best progress) lead to better grades. Well, is that supposed to be a suprise? And we pay these people to do research?

  • john woods

    Gove simply has to treat the NUT as a roadblock to be driven over rather than treating em as partners: they have ZERO interest in educating kids: they are only interested in their pay. You and I might think schools exist in order to educate people: Blower bird thinks they exist in order to keep the members of her union in jobs, no matter how idle or incompetent they are.

  • Sweetpea

    Just for the sake of clarity: could every person who welcomes this research confirm, for the record, that they are advocating significant pay rises for teachers in affluent areas (accepting of course that teachers in less affluent area will not receive these increases). Cheers!

    • telemacharse

      Fool. Cheers!

      • Sweetpea


    • Publius

      Each school should set its pay independently, based on what it can afford and what the market rate in the area is. Same for hospitals etc.

      So if schools and hospitals in expensive areas can’t attract the staff they need, they will need to pay more.

  • Daniel Maris

    No one can argue against rational pay scales but this is clearly just another attack on people’s working conditions.

  • John_Page

    The headline assumes the teaching unions are embarrassable…!

  • decafT

    the unions don’t normally mind opposing things that benefit pupils. not sure why they’ll mind here.

  • In2minds

    “This is awkward for the unions because they now appear to be opposing something that looks like it could benefit pupils”. No, not at all awkward, the unions represent the teachers the pupiis don’t matter.

    • tele_machus

      Of course the pupils matter which is why the teachers do not wish to support radical changes on the back of flawed methodology.
      There has to be a rate for the job and equal remuneration for equal expertise
      Can any other system be fair
      If teachers or any other workers wish to move to maximise their spending power what business is that of Gove

      • Nicholas

        If you look at the placards those political activists employed as teachers are holding you will see that their protest is purely political. Personally I’m sick to the back teeth of Labour activists exploiting education for their party political posturing because they happen to dislike the elected government and want to bring it down, seizing any passing cause to do so.

        • tele_machus

          This is your terms and conditions mate and bugger all to do with Politics
          Although I have to say anything that gives Gove a kick up the ring is to be welcomed

      • telemacharse

        Keep it up Idiot #1. Cheers!

      • Fergus Pickering

        Yes, the other system put forward is fairer, telemachus. Of course it is.Anyone not a leftie numpty can see it is fairer. Otherwise teachers in the South East are effectively paid less, aren’t they?

  • UlyssesReturns

    God forbid the teaching unions would support anything that puts children’s interests before their own. And as for that creep Twigg, words fail me. It’s articles like this that epitomise all that is wrong in a socialised England, raises my blood pressure and shortens my life expectancy.

    • Publius

      “shortens my life expectancy”

      Me too, Ulysses. Which, I suppose, might be a blessing when you think of what’s coming.

    • tele_machus

      We clearly therefore need more articles like this

      • telemacharse

        And you are of course still Idiot #1. Cheers jackass.

    • Sweetpea

      Sorry, I don’t understand the objection to Twigg’s statement – it is entirely consistent with the Government’s response to the research. Since he said this several month’s ago he should surely be congratulated for his prescience rather than be lazily criticised for being a political opponent. Cheers!

      • telemacharse

        You must be Idiot #2. Cheers numpty.

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