More contradictions as Government undermines own policies (updated)

21 Mar

Updates, 15 February 2011 (correspondence between Voice General Secretary and Secretary of State for Education) and 21 March (on STRB recommendations) below:

20 January 2011:

Once again, the Department for Education is demonstrating how it is driven by competing and conflicting ideologies. Following on from:

  • raising teaching standards while allowing unqualified teachers in free schools;
  • promoting a traditional national curriculum while exempting academies from following it;
  • allowing teachers freedom to teach but telling how to do it;
  • etc, etc

the latest examples of doublethink concern teachers' and headteachers' pay.

Voice, along with the other teacher unions, has been giving oral evidence to the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) on the two issues under consideration at present:

  • a payment of £250 pounds to those teachers earning less than £21,000 the government's definition of the low paid;
  • a cap on headteachers' salaries which would mean that no headteacher could earn more than the Prime Minister.

Voice's views on these are contained in the joint union evidence and supplementary evidence submitted to the STRB.

These two issues emphasise the contradictory thinking coming from the coalition government and from the DfE in particular.

In his Budget, the Chancellor announced the payment of £250 to all public-sector workers earning less than £21,000. In his written evidence to the Review Body, the Education Secretary said that "the Government will look to the Pay Review Bodies to provide recommendations on uplifts".

Now there are only a relatively small handful of unqualified teachers who earn less than £21,000. The vast majority of school staff who earn less than £21,000 are support staff who do not have a pay review body (that was snatched away from them) so what happens to them?

Well, in a letter to Unison, GMB and Unite, the Secretary of State made it clear that "the policy applies to the civil service and those workforces with pay review bodies, including teachers. These are all workforces where central Government has a role in determining pay" ..and, in respect of support staff in schools, "it has always been the case that it is for employers to decide whether the payment should be made."

We know that NEOST (the employers) are not in favour of paying the £250. So there is likely to be an absurd and unacceptable situation where a small number of lower paid school staff will receive the additional payment and the vast majority will not.

This cannot be right of fair and highlights the contradictions and lack of thought in some of the Government's policies. A Chancellor who makes announcements which he has not got the power to deliver incompetence, deception or just contradiction?

Then we have a situation where the Government wants to cap headteachers' salaries to the level of the Prime Minister's.

So the STRB accedes to the Government's wish and comes up with such a policy recommendation and the Government accepts the recommendation and it is incorporated into the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document.

But surely that can't be right because that same Government is trying to encourage more and more schools to become academies and those schools don't come under School Teachers' Pay and Conditions. They can pay their headteachers whatever they like.

So we have one DfE policy being undermined by another DfE policy. Please explain the thinking to me somebody? Mr Gove?

Yet another contradiction.

Whatever happened to joined-up thinking and grown-up government if they ever existed?

Update, 15 February 2011:

Correspondence between Voice General Secretary Philip Parkin and Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove MP

Letter of 24 January 2011 from Philip Parkin to Michael Gove MP:

"Last week I appeared before the School Teachers’ Review Body to give evidence on the topics covered by the current remit.

"As you know one part of the remit concerns the Chancellor of the Exchequer's clearly stated intention that, during the period of the public sector pay freeze, those earning less than £21,000/year should receive a pay uplift of at least £250/year.

"I told the STRB of my concerns that some low paid school staff could receive a pay uplift and others may not.

"In your evidence to the STRB (para 2.10) you stated that it is for the Pay Review Bodies to provide recommendations on such uplifts.

"I am also aware that you wrote to the Green Book unions telling them that for the sections of the public sector workforce which do not have Pay Review Bodies it was dependent upon the outcome of negotiations with employers as to whether those workers received the pay uplift.

"Voice represents both teachers and support staff in the school workforce. It would be unacceptable if some low paid school staff were to receive the payment and others who work alongside them were not to do so. It would be potentially divisive and grossly unfair if this were to be the outcome.

"I trust that the Government is doing all that it can to ensure that such a situation does not arise."

Extract from Letter of 14 February 2011 from Michael Gove MP to Philip Parkin:

"I recognise the concerns you raise. The Chancellor announced in June that from 2011-12, public sector workers will begin a two-year pay freeze period and I can assure you that this decision was not taken without considerable thought to its potential impact on the workforce. We were able to make an exception for those earning £21,000 or less, who would qualify for at least a £250 increase in pay during those years."

"I am able to refer the matter of a potential uplift for teachers to the School Teachers' Review Body, and then act on its recommendations, but as confirmed to me by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the pay of support staff who are employed by a local authority will remain a matter of negotiation and agreement between Local Government Employers and the National Joint Council for Local Government Services.

"Where the governing body of a school is the employer of school support staff, they will be able to agree the arrangements for their staff locally. As such, regardless of who employs the staff in question, it will be for local negotiations to determine whether or not an increase will be received and if so how much it should be.

"I understand your concern that this may result in distinction between teaching and support staff, however, these local negotiations will mirror existing arrangements for routine pay awards and we do expect local government to strike the right balance between pay restraint and the Government's fairness agenda."

Update 21 March 2011:

Voice comments on STRB recommendations

Commenting on the School Teachers' Review Body remit – 20th report, Voice General Secretary Philip Parkin said:

“We welcome the STRB's recommendations on behalf of those of our teacher members covered by them, but think it grossly unfair that the lowest paid staff in schools many members of the support staff will not receive a payment of £250 simply because they do not have a pay review body to recommend it and because the local government employers have rejected the Government's policy in this matter.

“The arguments put forward by DfE to the STRB in respect of the lowest paid unqualified teachers were equally applicable to support staff in schools. It is a scandal that those hard-working, essential staff should be deprived of this payment through the lack of a review body.

“It should be remembered that it is the Government itself which has abolished the recently-formed School Support Staff Negotiating Body.”

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