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Academies: Teacher Pay

Volume 612: debated on Monday 4 July 2016

1. What assessment she has made of the effect of conversion of schools to academies on teacher pay scales. (905608)

Academies have the freedom to determine their own pay arrangements. They are not bound by the provisions of the “School teachers’ pay and conditions document”, and can set the pay of their staff at the level they consider appropriate to recruit and retain the high-quality teachers they need. Academies’ freedoms also extend to other areas, including the curriculum, enabling them to develop approaches that better meet the needs of their pupils.

For local authority maintained schools, teacher pay scales are nationally agreed, as the Minister has just said, and they give teachers a clear indication of how their salaries will increase. However, allowing academies and academy trusts to set their own pay scales means that staff pay is very variable. What assessment has the Secretary of State carried out of the effect of deregulating pay scales on teacher morale and retention?

May I first welcome the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) and congratulate her on her appointment as shadow Secretary of State? She follows in the footsteps of the long-serving hon. Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass), and I suspect she was more surprised than I was by her appointment. Having worked with her in seeking to raise standards in Oldham schools, I know how able a shadow Secretary of State she will be.

In answer to the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows), flexibility is of course important. It enables academies to flex their salaries and to recruit and retain the top-quality graduates they need. It is a very worthwhile policy, and it is working.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that headteachers have the ability to flex salaries to retain the very best staff? Will he also comment on whether resigning after 48 hours in the education sector sets a new record?

I think it must be the record for the shortest-serving shadow Secretary of State. I am particularly offended, though, that there is no one to shadow me, and I wonder what I have done to deserve that offence.

Could the Minister now answer the original question? Is he advocating the abolition of national pay scales, because that is what it sounds like he is saying?

What I am saying is that, with the new freedoms academies have, they are able to pay salaries to attract the best teachers. That is a very good policy; it enables them to retain and attract the graduates in maths, physics and modern languages that schools and headteachers are telling us they need to recruit.

The School Teachers Review Body reported a very long time ago, and we are nearly at the end of the academic year. What is holding up the Government’s response to this report?

Ah, so there is my shadow, sitting on the Back Benches. He is very welcome. I wish he were sitting on the Front Bench and not there. However, in answer to his question, we are currently considering the STRB report, and we will publish it shortly, together with the Government’s response.

24. It is likely that academies in better-off areas will be able to access more funding and therefore pay higher salaries and attract the best teachers. What will that do for staff morale in academies in poorer areas? How will they be able to attract the teachers needed to close the attainment gap? (905632)

Academies’ funding rates are the same as those for the area in which they are situated. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will say something shortly about the national fair funding formula, which we hope will make funding across the country fairer.

It is a pleasure to face the Minister for the first time today. As he mentioned, we have discussed education issues in one of the areas in my constituency, in Oldham. It has been an interesting week, and I am really pleased that there are still two women at the Dispatch Box overseeing education; that is really good news.

We face a crisis in the teaching workforce, and it has not been made any better by the potential problems with teachers’ pay. Almost 50,000 teachers quit this year—the highest figure ever. More teachers left than were recruited, and applications are still falling. The crisis has left academies spending nearly £200 million more on supply teachers in the last year. Is the Minister now prepared to apologise for the Government’s accusation that the Opposition were scaremongering in raising this issue?

The truth is that there are record numbers of teachers in the profession today. There are 456,000 teachers—15,000 more than there were in 2010. Some 43,000 teachers left the profession in 2015, but they were replaced by 45,000 coming into it. Talking down the teaching profession does not help to encourage graduates to come into it. Wherever I go, I talk up the profession. I hope that the hon. Lady, in her role, will do the same.

I think that every single teacher does an absolutely superb job. Ministers should listen to teachers when they talk about the issues that teachers face every single day in the classroom. On today’s evidence, it seems that Ministers are failing and not coasting. They are not prepared to apologise. Where is the evidence that devolving terms and conditions to school level will lead to higher standards? Can the Minister tell us of any other high-performing country in which this has been done?

Academies are improving their standards at twice the rate of local authority schools; that is particularly the case for primary schools that have been underperforming and have been turned into academies. After two years, they are improving their standards by 10 percentage points—twice the rate of local authority schools—and using their flexibilities to ensure that they can recruit the best teachers into their classrooms.

Academies are able to pay higher rates of pay to keep teachers, but deregulation of pay scales means that staffing budgets can also be slashed, with the key resource—the teacher—becoming a second-class asset. What steps has the Minister taken to protect pay scales to ensure that teachers have a nationally guaranteed level of pay?

It is odd to hear people complaining that we are going to cut teachers’ salaries and at the same time saying that there is a shortage of teachers and that it is difficult to recruit. The free market will ensure, of course, that salaries—the jobs market—[Interruption.] We are living in a strong economy. We have to compete for our graduates with companies up and down the country. That is what will secure high salaries for the teaching profession.

Tomorrow’s planned strike by members of the National Union of Teachers has come about as a result of the ongoing erosion of teachers’ pay and conditions, with entitlements such as sick leave and maternity rights under threat. How does the Minister plan to protect teachers’ maternity rights under the academy system?

The strike is based on a ballot in which under 25% of teachers in the NUT voted. I agree with Deborah Lawson, the general secretary of Voice, which is a non-striking teachers’ union, who has called these strikes a “futile” and “politically motivated” gesture. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, this strike will

“harm children’s education, inconvenience parents and damage the profession's reputation in the eyes of the public”.

Does the hon. Lady agree with that assessment?