The School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions (England) Order 2021 (the instrument) made several changes to the pay and employment conditions of certain school teachers in England. The Government laid the instrument under the made negative procedure on 1 October 2021. It officially came into force on 22 October 2021.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie, Labour’s Shadow Spokesperson for Education in the House of Lords, tabled a regret motion on the instrument. The motion reads:

Lord Watson of Invergowrie to move that this House regrets that the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions (England) Order 2021 (SI 2021/1101) represents a real terms pay cut for the vast majority of teachers; further regrets that it has been made following a consultation process which took place over the summer holidays; notes that this created significant problems for consultation and planning for schools; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to commit to holding future consultations on the pay and employment conditions of teachers who are employed in local authority-maintained schools in England during term-time.

If the motion is agreed to, it would put members’ concerns about the instrument on record. However, it would not stop the instrument from having legal effect and remaining in force.

What does the instrument do?

The instrument updated the pay and employment conditions of teachers in local-authority maintained schools in England. These changes had effect from 1 September 2021. The Government guidance on school types describes ‘local-authority maintained schools’ as those that follow the national curriculum and “are not influenced by business or religious groups”.

The instrument made several changes to teachers’ pay and employment conditions for the academic year 2021–22. A key change included a consolidated pay award of £250 for teachers whose full-time equivalent basic earnings are less than:

  • £24,000 in the rest of England;
  • £25,194 in the fringe;
  • £27,419 in outer London; or
  • £28,681 in inner London.

Teachers who earn more than this are subject to a temporary pause on pay uplifts for the 2021–22 academic year. The Government stated in the explanatory memorandum to the instrument that this pause applies to headline pay uplifts only. Therefore, teachers earning below the maximum of their pay range may still be eligible for performance-related pay progression during the 2021–22 academic year.

The instrument also made several other changes, including:

  • extending the statutory induction period for a newly qualified teacher in their first or second year from one year to two years;
  • enabling teachers who are working additional hours to provide tutoring to mitigate disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to be paid via the teaching and learning responsibility payment 3 (TLR3) scheme. TLR3 payments range from £571 to £2,833 in England and are awarded to classroom teachers who conduct time-limited school improvement projects or who undertake one-off externally driven responsibilities; and
  • amending the days that teachers must be available to work to take account of the additional bank holiday scheduled to take place on Friday 3 June 2022 to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The instrument came into force on 22 October 2021. Its provisions applied retrospectively from 1 September 2021.

What is the process for introducing new teachers’ pay and employment conditions?

The Government introduces an updated version of this instrument each year. This sets out new pay and employment conditions for school teachers in local authority-maintained schools in England for each forthcoming academic year. The Department for Education’s School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document 2021 and Guidance on School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions (known as ‘the document’) is also updated annually to reflect these changes.

Before the instrument can be laid in Parliament, the Government is required by law to obtain advice from the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB). The STRB is an independent body that provides recommendations to the Government on matters such as school teachers’ and leaders’ pay in England. The STRB will publish recommendations on those matters, and the Government will decide to what extent the recommendations should be implemented. Once the Government has made this determination, it will publish a draft instrument and hold a statutory consultation. Once this consultation has closed, the Government will formally introduce the final version of the instrument into Parliament.

Why has a temporary pause on pay uplifts for teachers been introduced?

The temporary pause on pay uplifts for the majority of teachers echoed previous announcements made during the Government’s spending review in November 2020. As part of the spending review, HM Treasury said that pay rises across the public sector would be “restrained and targeted” in 2021–22, with only the lowest paid public sector workers earning less than £24,000 receiving a minimum £250 increase.

In December 2020, the Government wrote to the STRB setting out its proposals for the 2021–22 teachers’ pay award and asked for recommendations. In this letter, the Government said it did not seek a recommendation from the STRB for pay uplifts for the majority of teachers in 2021–22. However, it asked for the STRB’s views on the Government’s proposal to continue to pay uplifts for teachers who earn the full time equivalent of basic earnings of less than £24,000. This uplift would be a pay award of £250 or the national living wage increase, whichever is higher.

In its letter to the STRB, the Government advised that this pause on public sector pay awards would only be temporary:

Covid-19 is significantly impacting the economy, labour market and the fiscal position and has supressed earnings growth and increased redundancies in the private sector. If we carried on with blanket, across the board rises, the existing gap between public sector reward and the private sector would widen significantly. Therefore, it is right to temporarily pause pay awards for the majority of the public sector as we assess the impact Covid-19 has had on the wider economy and labour market. This approach will also allow us to protect public sector jobs and investment in public services as Covid-19 continues to have an impact.

The STRB published its recommendations in a report on 21 July 2021. Its key recommendation was a consolidated award of £250 to all teachers whose full-time equivalent basic earnings are less than £24,000 (with recommended equivalent values for those in London). It estimated that this would apply to around 6,000 unqualified teachers in England. An ‘unqualified teacher’ refers to those who are employed as teachers but who have not passed the qualified teacher process in England.

The STRB also warned of a “severe negative impact” on the retention and recruitment of teachers if the pay uplift pause for teachers continued beyond the 2021–22 academic year. It therefore urged the Government to allow it to make recommendations on pay uplifts for all teachers and school leaders in 2022–23.

The Government responded to the STRB report in the House of Commons on 21 July 2021 and accepted the STRB recommendations in full. The Government also committed to reassessing the pay award position ahead of the 2022–23 pay round.

The Government ran a statutory consultation on the draft instrument from 21 July to 14 September 2021. In the explanatory memorandum to the instrument, the Government stated that it had been necessary to conduct the consultation over the summer holidays so that teachers’ pay award could be considered in the context of the wider public sector pay process.

What has the reaction been?

Several teachers’ unions have criticised the temporary pause on pay uplifts for the majority of teachers.

Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, raised concerns about the effect that the “pay freeze” could have on the retention of teachers. Stating that the new changes risked increasing teacher shortages, he said:

Teacher and leader salaries have already failed to keep pace with inflation over the course of the past decade and the imposition of what is effectively another pay cut undermines retention of existing staff and makes salaries less competitive.

The National Teachers’ Union described the Government as being “out of touch” with teachers and school leaders. It accused the Government of using the pandemic as an excuse to justify not giving all teachers a pay increase. Kevin Courtney, the Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, accused the Government of not valuing teachers:

The Government’s pay freeze for teachers is demoralising and presages further teacher and recruitment difficulties as we come out of the pandemic.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) also raised concerns about the potential impact of the changes on recruitment and retention of teachers. Paul Whiteman, the General Secretary of NAHT, noted existing challenges in retaining and recruiting teaching staff, particularly for senior leadership positions. He argued that the pause on pay uplifts for the majority of teachers could exacerbate this problem and “risks further eroding leadership supply, and risks prompting an exodus of leaders when the pandemic finally lifts”.

In October 2021, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) released results of its recent survey that assessed teachers’ attitudes towards the teachers’ pay. It said that 94% of teachers surveyed disagreed with the pause on pay uplifts, with 83% of teachers surveyed saying that it would have a negative impact on recruitment and retention of teachers in their own schools.

The Government has expressed its gratitude for all teachers, leaders and other school staff for their work and dedication during the Covid-19 pandemic. It said that it recognised that the decision to pause pay uplifts in 2021–22 was disappointing, but that it would help to ensure the recovery of public finances following the “unprecedented government spending” in response to the pandemic. However, it said the public sector pay policy would be reassessed ahead of the 2022 pay round once the economy had recovered and impact of the pandemic on the labour market was clearer.

In October 2021, the Government signalled its intention to remove the temporary pause on pay uplifts in the public sector. During the Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021, HM Treasury stated that public sector workers would “see pay rises over the next three years as the recovery in the economy and labour market allows a return to a normal pay setting process”.

What parliamentary scrutiny has there been?

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) drew the instrument to the ‘special attention’ of the House in a report published on 21 October 2021. This was on the grounds that the instrument was “politically or legally important and gave rise to issues of public policy that were likely to be of interest to the House”. The SLSC noted concerns raised by stakeholders as to the timing of the consultation process that had taken place over the summer holidays. It also acknowledged the Government’s explanation that the timing of the consultation had been beyond its control. However, it questioned whether the consultation process could be timed “more effectively” in future so as to avoid the summer holidays.

The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments considered the instrument on 17 November 2021 but chose not to report it to the House.

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