Education & Family

New teachers 'can't risk mortgages', says union leader

Mary Bousted, ATL
Image caption Dr Bousted said wage uncertainty was making the teaching profession unattractive

Young teachers are shying away from taking out mortgages because of uncertainty about future earnings, says a teachers' union leader.

Dr Mary Bousted, head of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said new performance-related pay structures meant new teachers could not predict their future earnings.

Teachers' pay had fallen 12% against inflation, she told the ATL conference.

The government said the changes would let heads pay good teachers more.

A new pay structure for teachers was introduced in England and Wales last September.

The move was controversial and led to industrial action by members of the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT.

'Making profession deeply unattractive'

Dr Bousted said: "What was previously an expectation that if you worked for so many years, you would be earning X" was no longer there for younger teachers.

They were wary of rising interest rates and reluctant to commit to mortgages.

"The issue of teachers not knowing what they're going to be paid, and the workload, is making the profession deeply unattractive," said Dr Bousted.

She told the conference in Manchester: "[Education Secretary] Michael Gove told the School Teachers' Review Body that he wanted to pay the best teachers more.

"He said that the national pay framework was constraining individual schools from paying the best teachers more. So he abolished the national pay framework.

"He said teachers' incremental pay scales meant that they were rewarded just for turning up, not for good performance. So he abolished the pay scales."

Ofsted 'bullies'

In her conference speech, Dr Bousted also launched a stinging attack on Ofsted, saying senior management's desire to create an inspection-ready school "destroyed collaboration".

She said the inspectorate should be "radically slimmed down" and all inspectors properly trained and licensed, saying it was "so damaged, so tarnished" that it had to be completely transformed.

"Someone has to stand up for teachers and someone has to stand up to bullies," she told her members.

"School leaders, whose jobs are as secure as their Ofsted category, too often resort to dictatorial ways, telling teachers what to do, insisting on ridiculous bureaucracies around lesson planning and assessment frameworks, which take teachers' time and attention from a deep focus on teaching and learning."

Inspection findings were, she claimed, rarely valid or reliable.

"We know that, frankly, it's a lottery which depends on which Ofsted inspection team turns up - one that has a clue, or one that is clueless."

She said: "I am not alone in coming to the conclusion that Ofsted gets it very wrong far too often - the normally Tory-supporting, right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange, in its recent report on Ofsted, says that you might as well flip a coin to come to an Ofsted judgement on teaching quality."

'Raising standards'

The Policy Exchange report, Watching the Watchmen, recommended Ofsted abolish or radically reduce the number of inspectors it uses from private companies, saying many inspectors do not have the skills needed to make fair judgements of schools.

Dr Bousted expressed concern that the "Ofsted sword of Damocles" hung over any senior leader "foolish enough" to think they would be given sufficient time to turn around schools with problems.

"Ofsted has ensured that leaders taking these positions significantly raise their risk of committing career suicide."

An Ofsted spokeswoman said the inspectorate had played a major part in raising standards in England's schools over the past 21 years.

She said: "Our reports remain a valuable and independent source of information for parents, carers and the wider public.

"As Her Majesty's chief inspector has said, Ofsted does not expect schools to adopt a particular way of teaching.

"However, we have toughened our inspection frameworks over recent years and schools are rising to the challenge."

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