Wednesday 28 October 2015

So just 'hundreds' of #teachersmake £65k? - the DfE should withdraw its misleading 'up to' claim

Yesterday, the DfE helpfully decided to launch their misleading “#teachersmake” recruitment campaign during a half-term break. For once, that meant that I, and other teachers, had more time available than usual to respond to their half-truths (or perhaps that should be their 0.1%-truths as I explain below).

I took the chance to submit a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, and have received an acknowledgement that the complaint is being looked into. The complaint has also been picked up by both Schools Week and the TES – and now, it would appear, by the DfE itself.

By this afternoon, the DfE had released a press statement defending its advertisement, saying that “teachers have the potential to earn up to £65k and hundreds do"

Now you would have thought by now that the DfE might realise that teachers can apply the skills we teach to our students about analysing sources and data. A quick look at Table 5 of the School Workforce Census suggests that there are 412,000 qualified classroom teachers in English schools. I'm open to correction but, if even as many as four ‘hundreds’ of them are earning £65k, isn't that just 0.1% of the total?

In short, many teachers (at least in Inner London, the only area where the little-used 'Leading Practitioners Pay Range' goes up that far) may have the ‘potential’ to earn a £65k sum but very, very few of us do! Isn't it just more than a little misleading for the DfE to suggest that we can do so?

So is 'up to' £65k an acceptable claim?

We've all come across similarly suspiciously high 'up to' claims on broadband speed. A helpful comment on my original post  suggested I look at what the ASA and other regulatory bodies advise broadband providers. Here's what I found:

Achievable for at least 10% of the 'relevant customer base' ?! Not 0.1%?! If this is the standard set elsewhere, then I hope the ASA will be advising the DfE to withdraw the 'up to £65k' claim at the end of their advertisement immediately.
DfE 'flexibility' - insulting our intelligence

The DfE statement goes on to say that “teachers play a vital role in raising standards and ensuring all pupils can reach their full potential”. Well that’s a statement that teachers would entirely agree with. However, it’s their final statement that will only stoke teachers’ anger: “We have given all heads much greater flexibility to set staff pay and reward their best teachers with a pay rise.”

I've always suspected that some in the DfE have a low opinion of teachers, and would-be teachers, but do they really think we’re that gullible? Most of us know only too well what these new ‘flexibilities’ entail – and they are chiefly about cutting our pay, not increasing it! 

For many decades, teachers could rightly expect to progress up the pay scale as they gained experience. However, this Government’s imposition of divisive and demoralising ‘performance-pay’ means that Governors can now decide to pick and choose who gets a pay increase - and who doesn’t.

Some schools are already using those powers to deny salary increases. For example, figures that I have seen suggest that as many as a third of main range teachers were refused progress in some of the biggest academy chains. Upper pay range rejections were even greater.

With budgets under pressure, finding the budget to pay some teachers more can only be achieved by cutting salary costs elsewhere. Tellingly, given that the £65k figure is only applicable in Inner London in any case, it is precisely this region that could be facing the biggest budget cuts under the Government’s proposed changes to the Funding Formula. A paper tabled at a recent Lewisham Schools Forum warned that “schools in Lewisham [may] need to find savings of up to 20% over 5 years”. If that warning is proved correct, what ‘flexibility’ will schools have to pay any teachers £65k?

Supply Teachers worst hit of all

Of course, the attacks on permanent teachers’ pay are attacks that have already been experienced by agency supply teachers. With privatised agencies skimming off a good chunk of the money paid to them by schools, most supply staff receive far less than the pay rates set down in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document. Of course, as the recruitment and retention crisis worsens, even more vacancies are being filled by these underpaid supply colleagues.

That’s why, today, the NUT held a lively lobby of supply agencies in London, bringing our message to firms like Protocol and Hays that it's time to ‘Stop the rip-off!'

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