Regional pay will cause discrimination – ATL

Teachers, lecturers, school and college heads all fear that regional pay would lead to discrimination against staff, particularly on the grounds of age, according to a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL). Education staff also believe that those who are not teaching maths, English or sciences would lose out and that pay would be linked to the age of children being taught, with those working with primary pupils getting paid less.

In a survey of 791 teachers, lecturers, heads and principals working in state-funded schools, sixth form colleges and further education colleges across the UK carried out in March, 53% said they thought regional pay would lead to discrimination between staff based on their age, and this rose to 67% of school and college leaders. Teachers at both ends of their career said they were worried.

A head of department in a secondary academy in Liverpool said: “Experienced, older staff would be discriminated against in favour of newly qualified teachers and less expensive staff.”

A member of the leadership group in a primary school in Norfolk said: “I suspect that, yet again, pay would favour large high schools rather than small primaries. Young new teachers would also suffer.”

Overall, 62% of staff said they thought there would discrimination on the basis of the subject taught, rising to 72% of school and college leaders and 71% of secondary staff.

A head of department in an academy in Bromley said: “Maths and science teachers would be paid more to attract them. Schools could afford to pay teachers of non-shortage subjects less and still recruit them due to the current economic situation and the large numbers of young people entering the profession recently.”

A member of the leadership group who works in a secondary school and further education in Nottinghamshire said: “Moving away from the national pay scale will lead to shortage subject teachers, particularly maths as well as English teachers being paid more even though they will teach the same level, with same class sizes.”

Fifty-three per cent of staff said there would be pay discrimination based on the age of the students being taught, rising to 61% among school and college leaders. School and college leaders were also concerned about sex discrimination influencing pay, cited by 42%.

All groups of staff were adamant that school and college principals and governors should not set pay rates, with overall 76% objecting to this and 71% of the leadership group unhappy at the prospect.

A teacher in a secondary academy in Somerset said: “It’s easy to be flippant about this, but there are serious questions of equality and nepotism to face, especially with academies. Currently we all know roughly what pay bands people are on, and it’s only when secret deals are done that people feel aggrieved. ‘Old boys’ are everywhere… even when they’re new!”

A further education lecturer in Bedfordshire said: “Pay should not be at the discretion of the principal, as if they are less than honest or harbour grudges against certain staff then these staff will be at a great disadvantage when it comes to salaries. Friends, close colleagues and those ‘who serve a purpose’ by spying and snooping will have great pay, while others will suffer.”

A primary teacher in Bradford said: “The current system is fair – no matter where you work or move to you know what you will be paid. If it is at the head’s discretion, people will be paid differently in different schools for doing the same job, which shouldn’t happen. It could also lead to heads trying to outbid each other for the best teachers, leading to over-inflated pay budgets for schools.”

The vast majority of staff throughout the UK (74%) support the continuation of a pay differential for those working in Greater London on the grounds that the cost of living is significantly higher than in other parts of the country.

ATL members were more divided about having a premium for working in areas of the UK outside London, with 41% in favour and 35% against. Staff were similarly divided on the issue of pay reflecting regional or local economic conditions, with 33% in favour and 46% against.

Staff fear regional pay will disadvantage children in deprived areas which find it harder to attract and retain teachers, lecturers, heads and principals.

A member of the leadership group in a primary school in Norfolk said: “It will be increasingly difficult to recruit teachers to the more challenging jobs, in deprived areas, whilst the leafy suburbs will flourish even more. Children deserve a fair, level playing field.”

A head of department in a sixth form college in North East Lincolnshire said: “Deprived areas have a lower cost of living. They also need the best teachers to raise standards, increase motivation and ‘break the cycle’. Paying teachers in these areas less will not encourage the best teachers to work in challenging environments.”

Gary Marshall-Falland, a secondary teacher in Oxfordshire, said:” We all know that there is a significant North/South divide economically in the country, and any attempt to regionalise pay is going to make this significantly worse. I can see a situation where certain parts of the country would not be able to recruit the quality of staff that they would wish for.”

A head of department working in an academy in Doncaster said: “Teachers working in poorer areas have a hard enough job without the potential of being paid less. Having worked within a range of school and areas I know from experience that the pressure of working in poorer environments is much more challenging than working with those in affluent areas.”

Staff were also suspicious about the government’s motives for considering regional pay, suspecting that it is motivated by wanting to cut education funding.

A secondary head of department in Redcar and Cleveland said: “By introducing regional pay I feel the government is using it as an excuse to reduce the education budget at the expense of teachers in the north. In our school we are finding it difficult to recruit and retain staff; with a lower pay scale compared with our southern colleagues it will be even more difficult to recruit and retain staff. If this happens can you imagine the morale of teachers in the north after a few years.”

Staff also pointed out the difficulties of devising a fair regional pay structure when there are so many variables – ranging from variations in utility costs, housing prices, and transport costs to the vast range of factors which affect how well children do at school and college, many of which are outside their influence.

A primary teacher in Cornwall said: “We all do the same job so pay should be national. Regional variations are a part of life – my water bills are the highest in the country but I have to pay them even though I get the same water and sewage service as people who pay far less. I teach 34 children – perhaps simple Mr Gove should pay me double what a teacher of a class of 17 gets paid. There could be no end to the debate on this – every teaching job is unique and ever changing but national uniform pay is fair to all.”

A teacher in a secondary academy in Lincolnshire said: “Performance related pay cannot be justified when soft subjects and optional subjects can gain better results than compulsory, core subjects such as science and maths. Subject leaders already choose their pupils carefully so that they get better results, don’t give them more incentive!”

Dr Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: “Regional pay would open a Pandora’s box of issues. The range of factors influencing how well children do at school and college is too complex to be reduced to a neat formula on which to vary pay. It is hard to imagine any school or college head relishing the prospect of spending their time and energy sorting out individual pay contracts for all their staff, taking into account what others are paying locally and ensuring they don’t fall foul of equal opportunities legislation. We could see employment tribunals over-flowing with cases.

“Education staff are right to be suspicious of the government’s motives. We all know that we are in tough economic times, but the education of our children is too important to sacrifice to cost-cutting. All children deserve to have the best quality teachers, lecturers and heads, which regional pay could make harder to achieve.

“ATL members feel strongly about this issue. They are already seeing their pay eroded due to the current two year pay freeze, which is being followed by two years of pay rises at one per cent or lower. And their pay packets will be further hit by having to pay higher pension contributions. If the government pushes ahead with this it risks driving education staff out onto the streets again in protest.”

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