College teacher pay decision is clumsy and divisive

21 Sep 2018, 15:55

Having identified some new funding for teacher pay, it could have been spent fairly across the system – instead it has caused division, laments Eddie Playfair

The government’s latest decision on the teacher pay grant is clumsy and divisive and creates a new level of unfairness in their treatment of colleges.

To give credit where its due, the Department for Education are to be congratulated on securing an extra £30 million to help support sixth form teacher pay. It shows that they acknowledge there is a problem. But by spending this additional money in such a brazenly unfair way they have managed to squander the goodwill this might have bought and snatch failure from the jaws of success.

Take two similar colleges where similar students are taught the same subjects by teachers who have the same pay and conditions. The teachers in one college are set to receive a government funded pay rise and those in the other will receive no additional funding. Why the discrepancy? Simply because one has converted to academy status and the other hasn’t.

The unfairness is evident, and everyone hates unfairness

What are teachers and college leaders to make of this? Is there any rational explanation as to why teachers in colleges which have academised are more deserving of a pay rise than their colleagues in virtually identical colleges which chose not to? Are 16-19 academies more in need of a vital cash injection than all other colleges? The unfairness is evident, and everyone hates unfairness.

Having identified some new funding for teacher pay, it could have been spent fairly across the system. Instead, the manner it which it’s being used risks creating a new sense of grievance. This iniquitous treatment will only serve to mystify and anger everyone by creating unnecessary new divisions and storing up more problems for the future. It’s quite an achievement to upset nearly everyone and still have to pay for the privilege!

In recent years, there has been a welcome trend towards more equal treatment of 16-18 provision wherever it takes place; with the move to a single funding rate and then the harmonisation of free school meal entitlement. ‘Standards not structures’ was the mantra and despite the overall underfunding of 16-18 education we could at least see that government was aiming for a level playing field with no favourites. It feels like we might now be going into reverse and moving away from a free market towards a rigged market.

College leaders, governors, staff and students will be coming together in October to make the case for proper investment in further education as part of Colleges Week. One of our specific asks is for an immediate cash injection to fund a decent pay rise for college staff. We can only hope that the government listens to the case for equity when it has money to spend.

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