National teaching crisis is imminent, unions warn

Six teaching unions have warned that a national teaching crisis is fast approaching as government limits to teachers’ pay and ‘real terms cuts’ to school budgets risk undermining standards.

The six unions include: The National Union of Teachers (NUT); The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL); The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT); The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL); UCAC, representing teachers in Wales; and Voice.

In a joint statement to the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), which sets teachers pay, the unions caution that ‘teachers need a pay rise’. The warning follows the government’s aim to limit teacher’s pay increases to one per cent or less for the next five years.

The government has contended that it was attracting ‘the best and brightest’ to teaching.

The joint statement warns that ‘as pay and prospects improve in comparable occupations’ further pressure will be placed on teacher recruitment and retention. The unions add that this could mean more children are taught by non-specialist teachers.

It urges: “The government must fully fund the necessary pay increases for teachers and school leaders in both England and Wales."

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of NUT, said: “Teachers are already leaving in droves, and new graduates looking elsewhere for a career. It is quite clear that, unless teachers’ salaries reflect the work they do, this is a situation that will only get worse, with disastrous consequences for education and pupils.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, warned: “Unless teachers get a significant pay rise, schools will have to start increasing class sizes, or shutting courses and cutting the subjects available to pupils.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said that it had worked with the profession to ‘raise the status of teaching’, claiming that a record number of highly-qualified graduates and ‘experienced career changers’ were now teaching.

She added: "But we are determined to go further, and recognise that some schools find it harder to recruit the teachers they need, which is why we are expanding the great Teach First and Schools Direct programmes and we are launching the National Teaching Service, which will mean more great teachers in schools in every corner of the country."

The STRB is expected to make its recommendations on teachers' pay in April.

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