Has Teacher Pay Really Improved Under Labour?

With the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, signalling a public sector pay squeeze, and the ever more political and activist head of the Audit Commission quango, Steve Bundred, recommending a pay freeze as “a pain-free way of cutting public spending, it is worth looking at the figures to see how much teachers have really benefited from government largess during the boom years.

The answer, in case you don't want to read to the bottom to see the graph, is not at all!

Bundred wrote in the Observer last Sunday:
“let's dismiss the notion that spending on health and education will be protected. There are good reasons why they won't and shouldn't. One is that, at a time when inflation is likely to be between 2% and 3%, a pain-free way of cutting public spending would be to freeze public sector pay, or at least impose severe pay restraint. This is especially true if real wages in the private sector are still falling.”
adding a political stance with:
“Health and education will not be immune from pay restraint, partly for reasons of fairness to others, … and also because ministers will correctly assume that as public sector workers have done well over the past decade, they will tolerate some modest real reduction in earnings.”
This is misleading in two ways.

Wages Are Not Falling

First, although pay growth has slowed, wages are not falling. As Ken Mulkearn of Incomes Data Services wrote in the Guardian, the reported negative private sector pay awards are skewed largely by the loss of bonuses in banking:
“The data for April 2009, using figures not seasonally adjusted and excluding bonuses, shows earnings growth of 2.5% in the private sector and 3.3% in the public sector, consistent with IDS research on pay settlements. In the private sector, the official figures show manufacturing (where most freezes are) at 1% and private services at 2.9%.”

Teachers Have Not Seen Pay Rise

Second, teachers have not done well out of the last decade, despite repeated claims from ministers and the uncritical acceptance of this factoid in the media. The graph shows an index of how (sixth form) teacher pay, which has been largely pegged to school teacher rates, has increased compared to the All Items Retail Prices Index. I start at 2001 as that is the earliest data I can find from the teacher union websites.Clearly, our pay moved ahead of inflation for the first couple of years, but since 2004 there has been steady slide. Not bad, but we've hardly “done well over the past decade”

What? Ministers are Being Deceitful?

Now, I don't mind joining in on a general belt-tightening, but at least I would like my pain to be recognised — I can't bear to have the millionaire ministers looking down their patrician noses at me, feeding me lies about my own pay and telling me that I should be grateful to have had it so good.

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