Labour will unveil its education offer this week with a promise to pay new teachers a £2,400 retention bonus and pledge to cut billions spent on agency workers, but has refused repeatedly to commit to giving teachers a 6.5% pay rise.
Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, will set out his “mission” on schools aimed at improving school standards and extending childcare to pre-schoolers later in the week.
Ahead of that announcement, Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, unveiled a promise of a £2,400 bonus for newly qualified teachers who stay in post for two years in a bid to halt the retention crisis.
She also pledged to reduce payments to teaching agencies to fill growing vacancies, in response to new analysis by the party that found state schools in England have paid recruitment agencies more than £8bn since 2010.
According to the latest data, there were 43,997 leavers in the teaching profession in 2021-22, compared with 36,159 new starters.
Phillipson said: “We will only drive … rising standards in our classrooms if we get a grip on the perfect storm in our teaching profession, which is seeing an exodus of experienced teachers and costing taxpayers over the odds to fill vacancies.”
However, she would not be drawn about whether Labour would give teachers a pay rise in line with a recommendation from the pay review body – believed to be 6.5%.
“I would see that as the starting point for negotiation; we can’t get anywhere unless we’re prepared to negotiate,” she told the BBC’S Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, adding: “I’m not going to come on this programme and commit to a figure, I wouldn’t expect the secretary of state to do that either; that is what will happen during the course of a negotiation.”
She added: “Labour governments always want to prioritise education and make sure we properly support people working in teaching with fair and affordable pay settlements.
“But who knows what the situation will be if we win that election, because the Conservatives crashed the economy, have behaved utterly recklessly, and that will present some tough choices.”
Teachers are set to strike again this week on Wednesday and Friday after rejecting a 4.5% increase offered by the government. The government is refusing to publish the teachers’ pay body recommendation.
Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, welcomed the Labour plan as she warned of a “crisis point” in schools.
But she added: “We want Labour to go much further, with better salaries for experienced teachers as well. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves – 40,000 left last year, 9% of teachers, 8% of headteachers last year. It’s experience we are missing in the profession.” She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that she had “no sympathy” with the government and Bank of England’s position that public sector pay rises are inflationary.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed the announcement but echoed calls for Labour to do more.
“Plans to improve early career training and ongoing professional development are sensible but Labour will need to be prepared to go further if they are to begin to solve the current crisis.
“We know that issues such as uncompetitive pay and a punitive inspection system are key factors in pushing people out of the profession, and it is only by tackling these that we will see teaching and school leadership become an attractive proposition once again.”