Following a decade-long freeze that has meant real-terms pay cuts year after year, the government has announced that it intends to follow the recommendations of independent pay review bodies by increasing the salaries of some public sector workers.
As a result, Britain’s hard-pressed teachers have finally been promised a derisory 2.75 percent pay increase from this autumn – meaning they will just about keep pace with inflation for this year, at least.
The government will not be increasing the education budget to help fund the rise, however. In January, the Department of Education (DoE) told the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), which advises on teachers’ pay. that a 2 percent pay rise for teachers, in line with inflation, “will be affordable within schools’ budgets”. (Hinds: Schools can only afford a 2 percent teacher pay rise next year by Martin George, TES, 31 January 2019)
However, this is not a reflection of reality for Britain’s schools, already struggling following a decade of austerity cuts.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is inevitable that this will result in more cutbacks, and while schools will do their best to implement the increase, we would not be surprised if some are unable to do so.”
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), which represents leaders in the majority of schools in England, said that the government was missing an opportunity to begin to solve the staffing crisis in schools and colleges.
“Unfortunately, leaders will have to cut elsewhere in their budgets in order to find the money needed to fund even this moderate rise,” said NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has stated that spending per pupil in England fell by 8 percent in real terms between 2009/10 and 2017/18. Having been stretched to the bone by years of devastating austerity budgets, schools will now be forced to make even deeper cuts in an effort to give teachers the promised rise.
One has to wonder how these latest cuts will manifest themselves. Fewer teachers? Fewer support staff? Fewer facilities? Further axing of arts and extra-curricular opportunities? Larger class sizes? Cuts to spending on books and equipment?
If Britain’s capitalist rulers are unable or unwilling to provide a high-quality education to our children, what is the alternative?
What do communists say?
At our party’s eighth congress in September 2018, a motion on education demanded:
1. The expulsion of all private interests in education, including the abolition of academies and their return to the state school system, and the end of private provision of goods and services to educational institutions, with all staff brought in-house with realistic wages and full employment rights.
2. The abolition of private, religious and ethnically-divided schools.
3. The abolition of tuition fees in all institutions at all levels of education.
4. The provision of maintenance grants to cover living expenses of working-class students and their families, from creche and kindergarten through nursery, to school, undergraduate and higher-degree level.
5. Changes in the syllabuses and teaching methods should reflect the scientific, historical and artistic needs and interests of working-class people, including the teaching of materialist philosophy, science and working-class history and politics.”