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Only by giving teachers fair pay can we deliver world class education

(Alamy)

3 min read

With an intense workload, long hours and relatively poor pay, it’s not surprising that teachers across England and Wales have chosen to strike.

Incredibly nine out of 10 members of the National Education Union voted for the action.

After the disruption and learning lost during Covid, the last thing parents and children need right now is yet more days of schooling lost. Schools and children’s charities report that an increasing number of children are not returning to school. This is particularly the case in deprived communities where a pretence of home education is being used as a reason for the child not going to school.

It is little wonder that the number of teachers who leave the profession is so staggeringly high

We already know that disadvantaged children are on average a year behind their peers.

The quality teaching is paramount. If a child has an inadequate teacher, they miss out on a year of learning – and for secondary school pupils the implications are worse.

That is why it is so important that we realise that our teachers need to be well trained, well respected – and yes, well paid.

We need a teaching profession which attracts the very best. You cannot attract the best if they feel that it is a job which is undervalued, not particularly well paid and bogged down in needless workload pressures.

Over the years we have added to non-teaching pressures – every new initiative invariably means even more form filling for teachers and less time spent on the quality of their teaching.

Never mind the requirements that an Ofsted inspection brings, the list of other teaching demands is startling. Performance management, target setting, child observations, profiles, record keeping; the list is endless creating huge wellbeing issues in the profession.  

It is little wonder that the number of teachers who leave the profession is so staggeringly high. Around a third of primary school teachers (34 per cent) and secondary teachers (34 per cent) left within four years of entering the profession.

The number of graduates training to be teachers has slumped to catastrophic levels with government missing its own recruitment targets by more than 80 per cent in key subjects, such as Physics.

It is always interesting how history can sometimes seem to be repeating itself. In the 1970s there was the so-called Winter of Discontent with widespread industrial action. In teaching there were major problems of recruitment and retention – the two R’s and teacher pay was a major issue. Harold Wilson’s Labour government set up an inquiry chaired by Lord Houghton which was the first independent review of teachers pay. The review recommended extensive changes to the salary structure for teachers and substantial increases in pay.

Perhaps part of the solution to the current discontent in the teaching profession and to tackle recruitment and retention is to quickly establish a Houghton-style review.

But we need to deal with teachers pay now. The School Teachers Review Body is how teachers’ salaries are determined for maintained schools each year, but it is not fair or equitable. The Department of Education appoints the board members, gives them their remit and can reject their findings completely.

We need a board which is truly independent and not lackeys of the government. We can then gain the confidence of all the teaching profession and get on with what teachers are good at, allowing teachers and schools to provide a world class education.

 

Lord Storey, Liberal Democrat peer.

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