Morale warning over pay at private schools

Pay in private schools is failing to keep pace with inflation, new research has found, prompting warnings over morale as staff face rising workloads.


Just one per cent of teachers, taking part in the National Education Union’s (NEU) independent sector survey, reported a rise that matched or bettered those suggested for state schools at 3.5 per cent.

And amid concerns over rising workloads in the private sector, with almost two-thirds of teachers working three evenings a week through term time, union leaders have said more must be done to protect education’s greatest asset.

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“Staff morale is being damaged by below inflation salary increases and burgeoning workloads,” said Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU.

“With pay awards lagging behind the state sector, this year could prove a watershed for many independent sector staff.

“Frustration over pay, combined with growing confidence from our enhanced membership of over 30,000 working in the sector, means that more and more NEU members are getting organised at school level, and asserting their rights to collectively negotiate their pay and working hours.”

An estimated six per cent of the country’s school population attends an independent school in England, with around 130 settings in Yorkshire. The independent sector survey for 2018 focuses on responses from over 1,000 teachers and 174 support staff.

One in five teachers received no cost-of-living raise at all, it found, with the majority facing pay increases at between one to two per cent. Workload is on the rise, the results found, with 40 per cent of teachers putting in hours every weekend to keep up and fewer than half taking a lunch break of at least 20 minutes.

Support staff face a “double-whammy”, the union has warned, with a trend towards contracts which pay them for term-time only.

“Employers need to refocus on their biggest asset: their hard-working staff,” said Ms Bousted. “They can do this in two ways. First, by carrying out a workload audit of all staff to ensure manageable workloads, adequate rest periods and appropriate recompense. Second, pay should be increased, as a bare minimum, in line with RPI (Retail Price Index).”

Julie Robinson, general secretary of the Independent Schools Council, said: “Teachers play a key role in the lives of young people and impact their lives every day.

“We appreciate that workload is an issue for teachers – there are examples of some heads who have set limits on, for instance, emailing outside office hours in order to support healthy working practices.

“Schools care very much about the wellbeing of all their staff to ensure teachers have the best possible working conditions to support their careers.”