UK Government Wants to Deregulate Teacher Pay

UK government ministers are reportedly considering plans for a complete deregulation of salaries within public education. The aim is to give schools the power to refuse pay rises for failing teachers.

Graeme Paton of the Telegraph reports that the proposals come following the recent recommendation of a Common education select committee to pursue performance related pay options that would prevent bad teachers from hiding behind collective bargaining agreements.

The proposal will do nothing to diminish tension between the Coalition and teachers unions which has boiled over with some frequency over the last year. Teachers in the UK have already taken industrial action several times of pension reform and are expected to rigorously challenge any attempt to reform their pay.

The National Union of Teachers has already called it a demotivational plan that will kill recruitment to the profession and further fuel staffroom resentment. However the government will claim that the truly demotivating occurrence is the current system whereby teachers have little to no incentive to improve. Michael Gove, the Education secretary, said pay reform for the education sector was necessary to drive up teacher quality:

"The current pay system is 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."

Under current pay arrangements a teacher outside of London earns a standard salary of up to £31,500, but this rises to £34,200 if they pass a good performance ‘threshold'. For teachers in the capital these figures are £36,150 and £41,500 respectively. The problem is that according to Gove and his Education Department teachers are progressing past the threshold due to time served rather than performance.

"Given that high quality teachers drive up pupils' achievement, it is crucial that the pay system enables head teachers to reward the best teachers who can have the biggest impact on pupil outcomes,"

If the plan succeeds over heavy union opposition it will bring state school education in the UK in line with that of the government's academy school program. While some teachers may be on a lower salary after the reforms it would also mean that schools with vacancies and challenging positions could offer higher salaries to attract quality candidates. It would also be much easier to link pay to performance.

Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: "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."

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