Amid the grim news from the Autumn Statement, many public sector workers will have breathed a rare sigh of relief when the Chancellor announced that the government would not be pressing ahead with local or regional pay in the NHS, civil service or prisons. But teachers have been singled out for a divisive and damaging experiment with what effectively amounts to individualised pay.
The Chancellor said:
“We are today publishing the reports we commissioned from the pay review bodies on market-facing pay. We commit to implement these reports. This means continuing with national pay arrangements in the NHS and Prison Service, and we will not make changes to the civil service arrangements either.
But the School Teachers’ Review Body does recommend much greater freedom to individual schools to set pay in line with performance. And the Education Secretary will set out how this will be implemented.”
The climbdown on regional pay in health, prisons and the civil service is hugely important. A broad alliance including MPs of all parties, councils of all stripes, the public, academics (£) and businesses as well as trade union members from public and private sectors spoke out against the proposals. The economic damage, risks to services and unfairness of the idea were compounded by the lack of evidence to support it from economic theory or private sector practice.
Of course, there is still no room for complacency given the government’s wider fragmentation of public services. Foundation trusts, academies and free schools already have the freedom to set their own terms and conditions, but tend to stay within the national framework as they recognise the transparency, efficiency and fairness it offers. If common sense prevails, this national decision should signal the end of damaging attempts to break away from national pay, terms and conditions as we’ve seen with the NHS pay cartel in the south west.
In the context of the acceptance of arguments against regional pay, it is even more infuriating that the government has decided to push ahead with what could be seen as an even more extreme type of fragmentation in teachers’ pay. Rather than a move to regional or local pay, this is effectively a move towards individualisation.
While a basic national pay framework will be retained, the points on the scale within this framework will be for reference only. All progression will be linked to ‘performance’, with the end of annual incremental payments for teachers as they gain experience.
Teaching unions have gathered compelling evidence about why performance related pay is inappropriate and unworkable for schools. Recent OECD research showed that there is no link between performance pay and pupil outcomes. It’s notoriously difficult to measure exactly when and where value is added during a child’s education, and to single out individual performance undermines the team working that is at the centre of good public service delivery. This approach will pit teacher against teacher looking for a slice of the pay pie in the context of pay freeze and job insecurity. It’s also vulnerable to gaming and exploitation and can open up discrimination and unequal pay.
Is the government serious about going down that divisive and damaging route when they’ve made the sensible choice for the rest of the public sector?