Teachers frozen out of thousands in real terms over the past decade

Wage freezes over the past decade have left teachers in Essex missing out on more than £4,000 a year, data has shown.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced this week a new pay freeze for many public sector workers, but for most it comes on top of a decade of little to no yearly rises.

Teachers are among those set to be hit again – but figures for average pay since 2010 show the impact of a pay packet that has already failed to keep up with inflation.

Teachers’ pay was frozen in 2011/12 and 2012/13, with increases then capped at one per cent until 2017/18.

In Essex, classroom teachers earned an average of £37,757 a year in 2019/20. That’s an eight per cent increase from the £35,066 the average teacher was earning in 2010/11.

However, over the decade, inflation has seen prices rise by 19 per cent.

If pay for teachers in Essex had kept up with inflation, they should be earning an average of £41,855.

That’s £4,098 more than they currently earn on average.

The figures, from the Department for Education, are based on the median wage of all state school classroom teachers in the area – that means half of teachers will earn the same or less and half will earn the same or more.

Essex County Council will be deciding its education budget early next year ahead of the start of the 2021/22 financial year.

Talk of wage freezes comes amid predicted block funding for Essex schools – compared with schools in the rest of England, the county’s schools are not well funded.

Out of 149 council areas, Essex’s spend per pupil ranked at number 125 in 2020/21, with baseline schools’ block funding per pupil at £4,811.

Essex is set to drop to 127 out of 149, despite an increase to £4,971 per pupil.

During the statement on the Comprehensive Spending Review, the chancellor told the House of Commons: “In the six months to September, private sector wages fell by nearly one per cent compared to last year. Over the same period, public sector wages rose by nearly one per cent.

“And unlike workers in the private sector, who have lost jobs, been furloughed, seen wages cut, and hours reduced, the public sector has not.

“In such a difficult context for the private sector – especially for those people working in sectors like retail, hospitality, and leisure I cannot justify a significant, across-the-board pay increase for all public sector workers.”

Some public sector staff will see a pay rise – nurses, doctors and NHS workers, and those who earn less than £24,000, who will get an extra £250 a year.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, described the announcement as a “body blow” to staff in schools and colleges.

She said: “Education workers are key workers who have kept the country going during the pandemic, but pay cuts are their only reward from this Government.

“It is not enough for Government ministers to thank teachers for their vital contribution during COVID.

“Such sentiments ring hollow when they are then subject to a pay freeze which follows previous pay freezes and years of below-inflation pay increases which have eaten into the real value of their pay since 2010. Support staff face the prospect of yet more below-inflation pay increases.

“These pay cuts will hit education workers just as inflation is expected to pick up in late 2021.

“Today’s announcement will negate all the Government’s attempts to keep teachers in the profession. It will make recruitment and retention problems even worse to the detriment of our young people, their parents and the economy.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter