Education union leaders have urged ministers to return to the negotiating table for formal talks on pay and funding as an independent review body is to recommend a 6.5% pay rise for teachers in England.
The School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) has told the education secretary, Gillian Keegan, that a 6.5% increase is needed to retain teachers in the profession. Keegan was given the report last week but has yet to publish its findings.
The 6.5% recommendation for 2023-24 is more than two percentage points higher than the 4.3% average offer Keegan made to teachers in March, which was roundly rejected by union members.
Leaders of headteachers’ and teachers’ unions said Keegan needed to hold formal discussions, particularly over how such a pay rise would be funded, as all four unions are holding strike ballots for industrial action in autumn.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the STRB’s recommendation showed how “out of touch” the Department for Education’s earlier offer was.
He said: “Education is in crisis and the government now needs to listen to the profession and let us help them solve it – 6.5% is progress but we have deep recruitment and retention issues.
“The government need to fully fund the award, tackle the unresolved pay issues from this year along with easing workload and inspection pressures. The government urgently needs to return to serious negotiations.”
The National Education Union said Keegan could no longer “hide behind” the STRB, with the education secretary refusing to reopen talks until she had received its report.
“Trust in the education secretary is at rock bottom,” the NEU said.
A DfE spokesperson said: “The independent School Teachers’ Review Body has submitted its recommendations to government on teacher pay for 2023-24. We will be considering the recommendations and will publish our response in the usual way.”
The 6.5% recommendation was first reported by the Sunday Times and has not been publicly confirmed. Education sources said it matched recent reports from within Whitehall.
The government has given an extra £2bn to its schools budget in England, and said that should be sufficient to pay for next year’s salary rises. Experts such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggested a 4.3% increase would be just affordable for most schools under existing budgets.
But Kevin Courtney, the NEU’s general secretary, said he did not recognise claims that a 6.5% pay rise would only cost schools an extra £350m, with the the real cost likely to be much higher.
Courtney said the government was trying to ignore pay claims for this year, as well as wider issues such as workload and the future of Ofsted inspections, which were having a dire impact on teacher recruitment and retention in England.
“We are saying to our members that this pay offer is the result of their pressure, and now they need to vote to keep the pressure on the government,” Courtney said.
Both the NEU and the NAHT have opened formal strike ballots among their members in England, to close at the end of July. The Association of School and College Leaders and the NASUWT teaching union will open ballots after half-term break in June.
Teachers in England were given an average 5% rise this year but with inflation running at more than 10% the education unions have sought higher increasing, matching those seen by teachers in Scotland and Wales.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of ASCL, said 6.5% would be a significant improvement but also called for formal talks. “The government has a history of short-changing schools. We will need absolute clarity that any pay award really is fully funded for every school,” Barton said.