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UK: increasing starting salaries – a step in the right direction for guaranteeing recruitment and retention of teachers

Reacting to the government’s announcement of an increase in starting salaries for teachers, education unions in the UK have acknowledged that this measure will make teaching more attractive and help to mitigate the recruitment and retention crisis, but further public investment in education is urgently needed.

NEU: Schools need experienced as well as beginner teachers

“The proposed increase to teachers’ starting salaries is absolutely necessary if the government is going to get enough graduates wanting to become teachers, but it may not be sufficient,” stressed Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), following reports that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will call for a salary increase of up to £6,000 a year for new teachers by the 2022-23 academic year.

Noting that teacher training targets have been missed for six years in a row, Bousted stated that “properly funding these increases and returning all teachers to at least 2010 levels is vital.”

While schools need beginner teachers, retaining experienced educators is essential. England has one of the worst teacher retention rates in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with almost half of teachers leaving within 10 years, taking with them vast amounts of knowledge and experience. The NEU calls for the government to go further and reinstate statutory progression pay points, in negotiation with teacher unions. This will ensure that the pay system is transparent, open and fair and that proper incentives are put in place for experienced teachers to stay in teaching.

Equally important to stopping the recruitment and retention crisis is teacher workload, especially given that teachers in England work the second longest hours, behind Japan, in the OECD. Unless teachers’ working hours are substantially reduced, they will continue to find their hourly rate of pay too low to attract them to, or keep them in, the profession, Bousted concluded.

NASUWT: Increases to the pay for classroom teachers are long overdue

Chris Keates, Acting General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) also underlined that “increases to the pay for classroom teachers are long overdue, following almost a decade of pay erosion which has left teachers’ pay falling further and further behind the pay of other graduates.”

Keates called for urgent action, pointing out that teachers will be disappointed that any increases will not take effect until 2023: “Measures are needed now to drastically improve teachers’ pay and conditions and to end the recruitment and retention crisis affecting schools and academies”.

While improvements to teachers’ starting salaries are necessary, schools are also facing a huge problem when it comes to the retention of experienced teachers, with two-thirds of teachers seriously considering leaving the profession, she warned. Investment in teachers’ salaries must guarantee improvements in the pay of all teachers, including experienced teachers.