Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland teachers to be offered 4.25% pay rise

Teacher marking, surrounded by books Image copyright PA
Image caption Four of the five teaching unions have been in a dispute over pay and workload with the department

Teachers in Northern Ireland are to be offered a 4.25% pay rise backdated over two years, BBC News NI understands.

It is one of the key features of a draft settlement between teaching unions and teaching employers.

However, it is understood reforms to school inspections as part of the settlement have yet to be agreed.

In a statement to BBC News NI, the Department of Education (DE) said it did not comment on leaked documents.

The department has also previously said that it would have to seek extra funding to meet any agreed pay award.

Four of the five teaching unions have been in a dispute over pay and workload with the department.

Many of their members have also been refusing to co-operate with school inspections since 2017.

Negotiations have been taking place between the unions and the employers - including representatives from the Department of Education and the Education Authority (EA) - for a number of months to try to resolve the dispute.

According to a draft agreement seen by BBC News NI, a pay offer of 4.25% over two years is on the table.

Teachers would get a backdated pay award of 2.25% for 2017-18 and 2% in 2018-19.

For a teacher at the top of the current upper pay scale on £37,870, for example, that would mean a pay rise to £39,497 plus back pay to 1 September 2017 of about £2,000.

A new teacher on £22,243 would see their salary rise to £23,198 and receive more than £1,000 in back pay.

However, Department of Education Permanent Secretary Derek Baker previously told the NI Affairs Committee at Westminster on 13 March that he would have to seek approval for a settlement beyond the public sector pay policy of 1%.

He also said that any settlement would have to be affordable, but he was not prepared to say how much extra money the department would need to cover any pay rises.

"We have put that on the table," Mr Baker said.

"Our colleagues in the Department of Finance know what that number is and probably the Northern Ireland Office knows what that number is."

Image caption Derek Baker previously said he would have to seek approval for a settlement beyond the public sector pay policy of 1%

According to the agreement seen by BBC News NI, the cost of the proposed 4.25% package would be about £70m.

There are also three other elements to the overall draft agreement seen by BBC News NI.

One includes agreements on issues like preparation, planning and assessment time and the EU working time directive.

Another is a series of reviews into areas like teachers' workload, special educational needs (SEN) administration, substitute teaching and consultation.

However, BBC News NI understands that reforms to the school inspection process are yet to be fully agreed.

These include a resumption of school inspections on 1 September 2019, but schools who have had incomplete inspections due to industrial action will not be re-inspected automatically.

The unions are also seeking measures which, they say, would improve the accountability of inspectors and inspections.

'Not yet resolved'

A spokesperson for the department said: "Negotiations with the teaching unions continue on pay for 2017-18 and 2018-19," they said.

"They are not yet resolved.

"Any agreement will be subject to normal approvals and funding being made available."

Northern Ireland is not the only part of the UK where teachers have been involved in pay disputes.

Teachers in Scotland were recently offered a 13% pay rise spread over three years.

However, according to figures circulated by unions, Scottish pay scales are currently lower than those in Northern Ireland.

They said teachers at the top of the upper pay scale in Scotland earned about £2,000 less than those on the same grade in Northern Ireland.

In England, Education Secretary Damian Hinds recently said teachers' pay should be capped at 2% next year.

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