Schools may get right to decide pay scales

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ALL schools could be allowed to set their own teachers’ pay under controversial proposals published by the Government which puts them on a collision course with trade unions.

The move could leave schools competing to offer higher salaries to attract the best teachers but is likely to spark a fresh row with teaching unions who want to defend national pay agreements.

The proposal is one of the options laid out in the Government’s submission to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) which currently deals with pay and conditions for the profession and has been asked by Ministers to look into how regional pay could be introduced.

Teaching unions say this would hurt the most deprived parts of the country.

In its submission to the STRB review, the Department for Education (DfE) argues the current pay system should be replaced with one that rewards good teachers, attracts the best candidates and gives schools the freedom to spend their money as they want.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: “Ensuring there are enough teachers, and that those teachers are of the highest quality, is critical to driving up standards in our schools.

“Reform of the current pay system for teachers is fundamental to driving up teacher quality. The current pay system is rigid, complex and difficult to navigate.

“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.”

The submission sets out five models for the future of teachers’ pay, the first of which is complete deregulation. This would allow headteachers and governors freedom to set pay rates and mean that schools which suffer from high vacancy rates could offer higher salaries to attract candidates.

It would also make it easier to link pay to classroom performance.

Deregulation would bring all state schools in line with academies and free schools, which already have freedom over staff pay and conditions. The submission also suggests that pay could be deregulated, but with either minimum and maximum pay levels, or simply minimum pay levels.

Teaching unions have vowed to campaign against any attempt to remove national pay structures, arguing it would cut teachers’ salaries and leave some schools, especially those in deprived areas, struggling to recruit top staff.

At its annual conference last month, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) voted to take “all appropriate action”, including being prepared to ballot for national strikes, if Ministers put forward specific proposals attacking teachers’ national pay and conditions.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “National pay scales for teachers give a transparency and ensure much greater fairness and non-discrimination than pay levels determined at school level, and should remain.

“Education is a nationally delivered service so local pay for a teacher is completely inappropriate.

“It would reduce teacher mobility, create shortages in areas of lower pay, hit recruitment and retention, and create needless extra expense and bureaucracy for schools. The NASUWT union has published research today which shows that large multi-national employers do not operate regional salaries but use a national pay scale.”

The other options put forward by the DfE are: Deregulation with set pay zones, to give schools some flexibility over pay but within set boundaries for areas; three pay scales for unqualified teachers, teachers and leadership staff; three pay scales with “spine points” for teachers to move up through or keeping the current pay arrangements but making sure there is a strong link between pay and performance.