Unions say Education Sec’s evidence for local pay is ‘woeful’, ‘a month late’ and that independent research ‘demolishes’ the Coalition’s case


Teaching unions have reacted angrily to detailed plans from the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to introduce regional or ‘zonal’ pay in schools from September 2013.

The proposals came in evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), which is expected to make formal recommendations on teachers’ pay reforms later this year.

Michael Gove described the current system for teachers’ pay as ‘rigid, complex and difficult to navigate’.

He said: “It does not support schools to recruit and retain the high quality teachers or leaders they need to address specific shortages and benefit their pupils.”

However, critics have dismissed his evidence as not only ‘woeful’ and ‘a month late’, but say their own research into teachers’ pay ‘demolishes’ the Coalition’s case for regional or local pay.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “Michael Gove’s latest proposals on pay fly in the face of evidence.

“Yesterday’s OECD report showed that performance pay in schools does not raise standards.  Last week’s Sutton Trust survey showed exactly the opposite of what both the Sutton Trust and the Education Secretary claim.

“Teachers are already suffering from pay freezes, job losses and increases in pension contributions – they now face pay cuts due to a policy based on ideology not evidence.

“Like so many of Michael Gove’s ideas, these proposals will demotivate teachers, damage team working in schools and worsen recruitment and retention problems – the very opposite of what is needed”.

The threat of ‘zonal pay’ for teachers and other public sector workers follows a claim from the Chancellor, George Osborne, in his November 2011 statement that public sector pay was outstripping that of private sector workers and was damaging local recruitment.

Independent analysts have described that as a misleading oversimplification.

They say previous experiments with regional pay – including those attempted in the NHS during John Major’s Conservative government in the early 1990s, to a more recent scheme, favoured by the Chancellor, at the Ministry of Justice – have either shown no obvious savings for the government, proved too complicated to administer, or collapsed under legal challenges of pay discrimination.

(Pictured: DfE graphic)

In its own submission to the STRB, the NASUWT warned that the Department for Education has adopted policies which run the risk of ‘recreating the recruitment and retention crisis which paralysed the education service in the late 1990s.’

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “The new research, drawing on evidence of best practice from both the public and private sectors, demolishes the Coalition Government’s case for local and regional pay.

“The research shows that the leading public and private sector organisations have national pay frameworks.

“The Secretary of State was a month late making his submission to the Review Body, presumably because of his desperate attempts to find any compelling evidence of the need for change.”

The union commissioned research from the analysts, Incomes Data Services, which found ‘a significant constant’ was that those who have advocated local pay arrangements have shown little knowledge of how actual private sector pay arrangements work.

It said industrial sector and industry skills are far more important than geography in determining pay levels.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “We fully support Michael Gove’s desire to attract the highest performing graduates into teaching and retain the best teachers.

“We also agree that good teachers help raise standards, but constant bashing and undermining of teachers and schools by the Secretary of State and his side-kick at Ofsted is not the way to achieve this.

“Pupils in the most deprived schools would have less chance of getting the best teachers if their schools’ pay had to reflect the local economic conditions.

“ATL members, both teachers and heads, have told us they fear a regional pay system would discriminate against younger and older staff, those teaching younger children, and those not teaching English, maths or a science subject.”

Government claims on the need to introduce regional pay have been undermined by the evidence of previous attempts to vary salaries in different parts of the country.

The Institute of Directors conducted a survey in November 2011 and it asked members if ‘national public sector pay scales make it difficult for SMEs in some parts of the UK to attract skilled staff because they can’t compete with the public sector on wage levels.’

In response, 57% said never and only 7% said frequently.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has encouraged other government departments to follow the example of a zonal pay system at the Justice Ministry.

However, Incomes Data Services found the scheme encountered problems when it tried to differentiate between zones as close as Liverpool and Manchester.

It also found that several previous attempts to devolve pay often foundered because local managers did not have the skills or other resources to determine local pay rates accurately.

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