The salary increase for new teachers is welcome news, but the government also needs to focus retention.
The proposal to increase teachers’ salaries to £30,000 by 2022-23 necessary and will be welcomed by many. However, as Dr Mary Bousted rightly points out, the government also needs to set out how teachers will be retained.
The 2018 Teacher Wellbeing Index by the Education Support Partnership produced some alarming statistics about teacher workload and stress. Teaching is an increasingly challenging choice of profession. Teachers have heavy workloads and have to work extremely long hours. During term-time, may teachers sacrifice their personal relationships and personal time to keep up with ever-increasing workloads and therefore the additional increase in teachers’ salaries only goes some way towards paying teachers what they are worth. Teachers currently get a raw deal in terms of salary compared to graduates in banking, computing and the legal professions, yet the data in the Teacher Wellbeing Index suggests that teaching is more stressful than other professions.
According to the Teacher Wellbeing Index:
- 67% of education professionals describe themselves as stressed;
- A third of teachers work more than 51 hours a week on average;
- 76% have experienced behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to their work, compared with 60% of UK employees, thus indicating that teaching is more stressful than other professions;
- 57% have considered leaving the profession over the past two years;
- 72% cite workload as the main reason for considering leaving their jobs.
To attract the brightest and best entrants to teaching it is only fair that the starting salary of teachers is made competitive. Currently, many graduates choose other professions because they can earn more. The starting salary for teachers has been fairly consistent for many years, despite increases in inflation and so the time for a salary increase is well overdue.
This investment into those who are new to the profession needs to be matched by investing in teachers who stay in the profession, to address the problem of teacher attrition. In addition, those teachers who choose to stay in the classroom rather than seeking leadership opportunities also need to be financially rewarded. Currently, there is no financial incentive to staying in the classroom. Higher salaries are allocated to middle and senior leaders and although these salaries can be justified, teachers who choose to excel in the day-to-day job of classroom teaching have to accept that their salaries will be capped once they reach the top of the pay spine. They get a raw deal for their commitment to educating the next generation while those who come out of the classroom enjoy the rewards of higher salaries. Leadership is critical but not more critical than classroom teachers who stand in front of children every day teaching lessons. The government needs to make classroom teaching more attractive by rewarding the commitment and expertise of those teachers who choose to stay at the chalk face.
Although it is refreshing that the government is planning to plough extra funding into schools, it is important to remember that schools have experienced financial cutbacks for several years. Within a climate where some teachers have to purchase resources out of their own salaries, these increases are long overdue.
Jonathan is Professor of Inclusive Education. His research focuses on LGBTQ+ inclusion and mental health. He is a researcher, teacher educator and qualified teacher.