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Russell Hobby's Blog

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT blogs about his thoughts and passions and the work of the National Association of Head Teachers.
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A cut in pay is a poor recruitment incentive

User AvatarPosted by Site Administrator at 03/05/2011 14:01:15

Annual Conference is over. My voice seems to have packed in too. It was a very good Conference. Positive, confident and assertive. We covered a lot of ground, but the most significant headlines were on pensions.

Conference voted overwhelmingly (one abstention), in favour of the following motion:

“Conference calls upon National Executive to take all action necessary to defend pensions up to and including balloting on industrial action, in opposition to the changes proposed by the Hutton inquiry, as they will reduce existing and worsen future retirement benefits for the teaching profession and the public sector as a whole. NAHT believe that the proposed changes will seriously damage motivation and morale, exacerbating the already serious problems of recruitment and retention of school leaders.”

Note that, despite some reporting, this does not commit us irrevocably to industrial action. There is still room for negotiation, and there are many actions short of striking that we could take. Nevertheless, it is a strong message, and starts us off on the road to potential action unless some serious response is made.

Despite last year’s boycott of SATs, no-one I have spoken to can recall the NAHT taking strike action within its 114 year history. If a union is here to achieve anything, though, it is here to defend its members’ terms and conditions. And this is what we will do.

It is worth setting out a few points.

The proposed reforms are a significant pay cut. Pensions should be considered as a form of deferred salary and different jobs should be compared on their total lifetime reward. School leaders have accepted lower pay in return for security in retirement. This is a covenant between employers and public servants.

School leaders could earn significantly higher salaries (and potentially bonuses, stock options and generous pensions) as directors in the private sector. It is true that the average public sector salary is close to that of the private sector, but this is only the average. It is not true for senior leadership positions, where executive pay and bonuses in the private sector far outstrip those of the public sector. Comparison of averages is meaningless.

School leaders work long hours (50-60 per week on average). They do not have long holidays (they are not bound by 1265 limit on annual hours). They do not have job security – their performance is increasingly exposed, scrutinised and vulnerable. Any comments to the contrary reflect a view of teaching from many decades ago!

If conditions were ‘cushy’ there would be a long queue of people waiting to take on the jobs. There is not. In fact, there is a recruitment crisis – 40% of primary headship vacancies advertised last year went unfilled on the first attempt. There are many different responses to a recruitment crisis, cutting pay is not usually one of the most effective.

This is not entirely a professional issue. Great schools need great leaders. If these changes deter people from becoming school leaders, or encourage existing leaders to leave, they will do no favours to children or to the cause of school improvement.

The proposes changes add up to a significant loss:

  • Increased contributions will reduce the average salary by over £140 per month.

  • The less favourable indexing will reduce the value of the average pension by over £50,000 during the course of a normal retirement.

  • The shift away from final salary will have an impact that increases with the distance to retirement. For a member operating entirely under a career average, this may result in a pension of around £10,000 less per year than they would have received under final salary.

  • Younger leaders will have to work longer. Yet school leadership can be a highly physical as well as emotionally draining role. Life expectancy for late retiring school leaders is shockingly low.

Let’s also remember that we are already doing our bit to reduce the deficit, in terms of both taxes and a two year pay freeze (which as inflation accelerates, will become increasingly punishing).

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