As teachers and pupils returned to the classroom after the summer holidays, many saw their school change from a maintained school into an academy. The Academies Act has opened the door for all schools to become academies, the result being a massive increase – from 200 in 2010 to 1,807 in May 2012, with many more having opened this September.
For teachers this is a worrying prospect. A TES magazine poll found that three-quarters of teachers would ‘not be happy’ employed in an academy. They are rightly worried. Academies have the freedom to set their own pay and conditions for staff, undermining nationally agreed standards.
The government believes that more competitive salaries will ‘incentivise’ staff. However, employee disputes in academies have risen fourfold in the past academic year. As more schools opt out of the local education authority, teachers and unions must plan how they are going to organise in response.
In the public sector, teachers’ pay and conditions are drawn up by the government in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), which is legally binding for all maintained schools.
At present teachers automatically move up a main pay scale, which increases each year until, after six years, it reaches a threshold. If teachers fulfil certain professional criteria or take on further responsibilities their salary can continue to rise; 95 per cent of teachers successfully pass this threshold. Consistently outstanding teachers can also be financially rewarded and encouraged by moving onto an advanced teacher’s pay scale with a significantly higher top rate.
‘A national scale offers protection and security,’ says Andrew Morris, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) pay and conditions expert. ‘It’s transparent and fair. Two teachers doing similar jobs will receive similar rewards.’ Academies disrupt this cohesion.
If a maintained school converts to an academy then existing employees’ pay and conditions are protected under employment transfer rights legislation known as TUPE. But TUPE does not apply to new staff, and unions are concerned that it will not protect existing staff either in the long term.
‘The result will be a two-tier system of pay and conditions between new staff and those protected by TUPE,’ warns Simon Stokes, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) spokesperson on conditions and pensions. ‘Staff who remain under TUPE may become an inconvenience for the school and management may try to get all staff on the same contract.’
Some academies pay lower than national rates, while others may start new teachers higher up the pay scale. But where academies initially pay more they may not guarantee the annual increase.
Academies have also recently been authorised to employ non-qualified teachers. Non-qualified teachers often have their own pay scale. This move not only continues to fragment the profession but also devalues it.
Many independent schools vary their pay. Where the pay is lower they attract new staff by offering smaller class sizes. Independent schools have been more vulnerable to the whims of the struggling economy. A survey of independent schools done by ATL in 2009 found that 16 per cent of teachers surveyed had been forced to take a pay cut and 20 per cent had their pay frozen due to the recession. Fifty-five per cent had a lower pay increase than in the state sector.
In the maintained sector, headteachers’ pay varies depending on the size of the school they manage. All headteachers earn according to a pay scale with a top salary threshold of potentially over £100,000. Department for Education data published this year showed that the average salary of a school leader in an academy is significantly higher than in the maintained sector.
Academies’ freedom to control staff pay has resulted in many senior staff receiving bloated six-figure salaries, particularly directors. In 2010 a director of 13-academy group the Harris Foundation received £243,027. This was at a time when the average pay for a classroom teacher had fallen to £34,400 from £34,700, due largely to the public sector pay freeze.
E-Act, another leading sponsor of academies, came under pressure for massive discrepancies in pay when it was revealed that Sir Bruce Liddington, the director-general, was the ‘highest paid person in education’. His inflated salary plus benefits totalled £300,000, which, as the NUT pointed out, was more than double what the education secretary at the time earned. That same year 50 members of staff at Crest Academy in Neasden, run by E-Act, went on strike against threatened staff redundancies.
Teachers in the state sector have enhanced rights regarding sick pay, maternity leave and working hours. Sick pay and maternity leave depend on the amount of time teachers have been in the profession. For example, during the first year of service a teacher can expect full sick pay for one and a half months – this increases the longer they work. Time served and the benefits accrued go with them from school to school. However, if a teacher makes the transition to an academy, the time they have accrued in the state sector does not necessarily carry over.
Ark is one such academy sponsor that does not recognise previous service in the public sector. Teachers making the transition to Ark will have to start again, and during their first year may have little or no entitlement to sick pay and maternity leave.
Ark also came under criticism from the NUT in 2008 due to its lack of fully paid maternity leave. The TES reported that the length of fully paid maternity leave – ‘from nine to four weeks’ – was less than half of what is offered in a maintained school contract.
Unions are also concerned that Ark, while offering a 2.5 per cent higher wage, does not adhere to the STPCD regulations limiting annual directed time and does not include any limits on working time for newly appointed teachers. It’s a similar situation at the Walsall Academy in Bloxwich, West Midlands, where in 2008 teachers were offered 10 per cent wage rises for a longer working day. Thomas Deacon academy in Peterborough offered teachers inner London wages, which are significantly higher, in exchange for 15 days extra per year and a raft of extra responsibilities.
Conditions in academies can differ greatly and unions advise teachers to look beyond a potentially higher salary and study conditions and entitlements carefully before signing.
Michael Gove has made no secret of his ambition to continue to deregulate pay and conditions for all school staff. Jonathan Hill, the minister responsible for academies, wrote to schools considering academy status suggesting that applications might be turned down if they adhere to the STPCD. This deregulation is viewed by many as an attack on teaching unions; if academies opt out of the STPCD then unions will not be able to bargain collectively.
More worrying is Gove’s intention for the status quo in maintained schools to be overturned with the introduction of regional pay. This would see the end of the national pay scale altogether in all state schools in favour of a more ‘market-facing’ local pay settlement.
At present academies’ pay for teachers by and large reflects the pay of schools in the public sector, with some exceptions. However if Gove’s vision for all schools to become academies is realised then pay and conditions will start to change drastically. Teachers in academies need to be unionised and empowered to fight for their conditions and the education of their students. Education unions will have to quickly adapt to this changing landscape while continuing to demand a locally accountable democratic education system. The term ahead is going to be a challenging one.
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.