Just a few days into the new term and the discussion on teacher salaries is with us again. In a report released yesterday by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) we saw that teachers’ salaries in the United Kingdom have been decreasing in real terms for several years. Internationally, the opposite has been happening. Teachers earn more in other countries.
Yesterday also saw the publication of a report by the National Audit Office. Government efforts to recruit and retain teachers are not working. The two things have got to be linked, right?
Well yes, for as long as I’ve been a teacher there has been concern that our salaries do not match pay in other graduate careers. By the time you’re thirty you’re almost certain to be earning less than university friends who went into law, marketing or engineering. It’s not the greatest incentive to commit yourself to a forty-six-year career. And whilst we’re about it, the retirement age is another issue.
But for several years, workload and accountability has been a far greater barrier to staying in teaching that salary levels alone. Teachers may love every minute they spend in the classroom but hate having their weekends taken away. There’s a huge irony in not being able to spend evenings with your own children because you need to analyse data on other people’s.
Stress levels continue to rise amongst the population in general but for teachers it’s a huge issue. Working for more than forty-five hours a week makes you less productive and less able to care for yourself physically or emotionally.
The government should be acting to deal with this but its top-down education policy means that workload and stress seem to get worse each year.
Currently the government denies that teacher recruitment issues exist. Their official position on workload is to encourage schools to find their own solutions but Ofsted’s agenda renders this impossible.
An end to public sector pay caps has just been announced but nobody in the public sector is cheering just yet. With pay and with workload a lot more needs to happen.