Teachers are stepping up their campaign for a 5% pay hike, following the announcement of a pay deal for health workers.
Union leaders said the move increases pressure on the Treasury and Department for Education (DfE) to find the funds to boost wages from this September.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) said England’s school system is in the middle of a teacher shortage “crisis”, and that pay increases are needed to help deal with the issue.
His comments come as teachers raised the prospect of walkouts over pay in a resolution due to be debated by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) section of the NEU at their conference this Easter.
Speaking to the Press Association about pay rises for NHS staff, Mr Courtney said that the NEU believes it is a “good thing” that the Government is now moving away from the 1% cap on public sector workers’ pay and has committed to funding the increase.
“The fact that this is a pay rise that’s more than 1%, that is funded, puts pressure on the Department for Education and the Treasury to find the money, and also on the School Teachers Review Body.”
The NEU, along with several other teaching unions, have called on the STRB, which recommends pay increases for the teaching profession, to recommend a 5% pay rise for teachers from this September, fully funded by Government.
In its report last year, the STEB noted that schools are facing substantial pressures in recruiting and retaining staff, and that many schools are facing reductions in funding and growing cost pressures.
It also said it is “essential” that teachers’ pay levels attracted high-quality graduates to the profession, retains experienced teachers and rewards those that take on extra responsibilities and leadership roles.
The report concluded that increases of more than 1% would be needed in the future to make pay competitive for teachers at all stages of their careers.
Mr Courtney said that since the report was published, issues with recruitment and retention had worsened.
“We think we are in a crisis with teacher recruitment and retention, and if they don’t act, the crisis will turn into a catastrophe.”
A motion due to be heard by the NUT section of the NEU at its annual conference warns that teachers’ pay has fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010.
It calls for the union to be prepared to ballot members for strike action over their pay demands, if polling suggests that would be enough support among members to pursue industrial action.
The NUT has recently merged with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) to form the NEU.
If the motion is approved by NUT members, it would need to be put forward to the NEU’s joint executive council who would decide whether it should be taken forward.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “We have a record 15,500 more teachers in our classrooms than in 2010 and this generation of teachers is better qualified than ever before. The average teacher’s salary stands at £37,400 outside of London, rising to £41,900 in the capital.
“It is thanks to these teachers hard work and our reforms that 1.9 million more children are being taught in good or outstanding schools since 2010.
“We have already given schools freedom over staff pay and have asked the independent School Teachers’ Review Body to take account of the Government’s flexible approach to public sector pay as they develop their recommendation.
“We want to continue to attract and keep the best and brightest people in our schools.
“That’s why the Education Secretary recently announced a strategy to drive recruitment and boost retention of teachers, working with the unions and professional bodies, and pledged to strip away workload that doesn’t add value in the classroom.”