UK: Retention crisis looming as teachers dissatisfied with pay conditions

published 26 February 2020 updated 27 February 2020

Key education unions in the UK have warned that a majority of teachers have already considered leaving the profession due to pay concerns.

National Education Union: General lack of satisfaction over pay levels

Around two-thirds (63 per cent) of teachers responding to a national survey said they had considered leaving the profession because of concerns on pay. Well over half of the teachers surveyed (58 per cent) said they were underpaid compared to other graduate professionals.

The survey was conducted by the National Education Union in January 2020 amongst members working in state-funded schools and academies in England. With responses from over 25,000 members, it is the largest survey on teachers’ pay increases and pay progression. The survey clearly underlines the problems caused by low teacher pay levels and unfair restrictions on pay progression, not least ongoing issues around teacher recruitment and retention.

The survey also highlights that, at a time when UK teachers need to see their pay improve against inflation, a significant number of them do not get any cost-of-living award or get less than the general uplift. Major equalities issues also remain, with women less likely to receive a cost-of-living increase.

Retention issues

On 24 February, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, noted that “our findings demonstrate that low pay, denial of pay rises and an unfair progression system are obstacles to solving the teacher retention crisis. Pay is becoming more and more uncertain at a time when pupil numbers are rising, the workload remains high, and the real-terms funding of schools is tightening. This will not make the profession attractive or ensure teachers stay in the profession.”

The survey also shows that teachers continue to be short-changed by the government’s alterations to the pay structure, he underlined. Teachers need higher pay and more certainty about pay progression to encourage them to join and stay in the profession.

Courtney insisted that the survey provides yet more evidence to support his union’s case for a seven per cent increase for all teachers in September. This should be followed by urgent action to provide further above-inflation increases beyond 2020 to restore the real-terms pay cuts teachers have suffered since 2010.

National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers: Call for a decent pay rise

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) is also calling on the government to offer teachers a decent pay rise. The government should recognise the vital contribution that teachers make to the futures of children and young people, said NASUWT General Secretary Patrick Roach.

In the case of the Isle of Man for instance, “the quality of an education system cannot exceed that of its teachers and the Isle of Man Government’s approach to pay is threatening the ability of schools to recruit the best teachers, and will undermine the current world-class quality of Isle of Man schools”, he said.

Over two-thirds of Guernsey teachers who responded to a November 2019 NASUWT survey  also said they had seriously considered leaving their job in the last year. Over half had considered leaving teaching altogether. The survey found a significant decline in teachers’ morale and job satisfaction, along with widespread concern about the State’s plans for education.

Commenting on the workload survey of teachers published on 11 October 2019 by the UK Department for Education, the NASUWT highlighted that “the workload pressures in schools are impacting adversely on the mental health and wellbeing of teachers”. The union is deeply concerned that “the Government has failed to come forward with effective measures to tackle the workload crisis in schools which has contributed to two-thirds of teachers seriously considering leaving the profession”.