Calls for review of teacher pay after OECD report reveals decline

Written by Tom Freeman on 12 September 2017 in News

Annual OECD report reveals teacher pay in UK declining while it is improving in other developed countries

Classroom - David Davies/PA Wire

Teacher pay in the UK was lower in real terms in 2016 than it was ten years earlier, a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has revealed.

The annual report, Education at a Glance 2017, says the salaries of experienced teachers have dropped 12 per cent in England and six per cent in Scotland over the decade.

This is in contrast with an upward trend across other developed countries.


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The report comes as many areas of Scotland suffer teacher recruitment issues, particularly for science, technology and home economics.

Meanwhile the UK Government is under pressure to lift the cap on salary rises in the public sector, something Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon agreed to do in last week’s programme for government speech.

Scottish teacher salaries are currently being reviewed by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT).

A Scottish Government spokesperson said salaries of primary and secondary teachers were “slightly below” the OECD average, but that starting salaries for Scottish teachers were the highest in the UK outside of inner London.

“Overall, the OECD report shows the salaries of Scottish teachers remain competitive with other countries. We continue to work with teachers’ representatives, local authorities and other partners to ensure teachers are well rewarded for the excellent work they do,” they said.

“The Programme for Government sets out our commitment to remove the one per cent pay cap from 2018-19. Teachers’ pay and conditions are matters for the SNCT. Negotiations are ongoing, and we will play our part in that process.”

The leader of Scotland’s biggest teaching union, the EIS, Larry Flanagan, said the international contrast revealed a political priority.

“Clearly, the government can no longer claim that cuts to teachers’ pay were an inevitable result of the global economic crisis,” he said.

“It was a political choice, in this country, to cut teachers’ pay and it is a decision that has contributed to the growing recruitment challenge and teacher shortages that exist in many parts of the country.”

The OECD report also revealed Scottish teachers have among the biggest workloads in the developed world, despite agreements existing to restrict ‘contact time’ with pupils.

Labour education spokesperson Iain Gray said the report showed teachers were “undervalued and under too much pressure”.

“While John Swinney bulldozes ahead with unwanted changes to school governance, what our schools really need are enough teachers with enough time, support and resources to do their job; with a career structure to properly recognise their efforts,” he said.

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Tavish Scott called for a new agreement to follow the 2001 McCrone report which sets pay and conditions.

"Alongside lifting the public sector pay cap, ministers must commission an independent root and branch review of teachers’ terms and conditions and the demands placed upon them to ensure that we have a system that is fit for purpose - a new agreement on teachers salaries – a McCrone2," he said.

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