You don’t see many headlines about the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), probably due to its severely unglamorous and non-alliterative name. This is a shame, because the recent announcement that all schools will be academies by 2022 may have big implications for the document, and therefore big consequences for how much teachers are paid and their working conditions.
The STPCD sets out statutory pay scales and working conditions for teachers in maintained schools. It also applies to teachers who were working in a maintained school when it converted to an academy, though academies can renegotiate pay and conditions for these teachers. If you become a teacher at an existing academy, the STCPD will mean nothing for you.
Come 2022, when all schools are academies, the document will most likely be irrelevant, buried in the graveyard of once-important education documents alongside some old National Curriculum level descriptors. At the very best, it will become a non-statutory document – a nice bit of guidance that schools may or may not choose to follow.
Some will celebrate this as a positive. Freed from the shackles of the STPCD, schools can now pay teachers whatever they like. It’s a lovely image, headteachers across the country gathering together to gleefully burn their now redundant copies of the STPCD*.
If we wanted to look on the bright side, we could rejoice at the prospect of all schools soon being able to pay their teachers more. However, this scenario isn’t backed up by the data. The latest statistics on the school workforce show that, on average, classroom teachers in primary academies are paid less than their peers in maintained primary schools and nurseries. The same is also true in secondary schools.
At the moment, the differences in the average pay of classroom teachers in maintained schools and academies are significant but not too substantial. However, academies currently have to compete for teachers against maintained schools who are offering a guaranteed level of pay. In 2022, and increasingly over the years until then, this won’t be the case. Every school will be able to pay class teachers whatever they like, and if current data is anything to go by, that’s likely to mean paying them less.
The financial conditions schools are working under arguably make this more likely. Staff pay takes up most of a school’s budget, usually over 70%, so when budgets need to be balanced, it’s a reasonable place to turn. A recent survey by the law firm Browne Jacobson and the Association of School and College Leaders showed that a majority of school leaders were concerned about budgets and looking to cut staffing costs.
It’s easy to focus on the impact on teachers’ pay. Money is so important that Abba once wrote an entire song about it. But the STPCD doesn’t just talk about pay, it also sets out working conditions for teachers. Further conditions for teachers are set out in the Burgundy Book, which also doesn’t apply to new staff in academies.
For the teachers they apply to, these two documents guarantee an array of favourable conditions that aren’t available in other sectors. The STPCD, for example, means teachers can’t be forced to work more than 195 days per year and guarantees them a certain amount of planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time. The Burgundy Book includes provisions on sick pay and leave, as well as maternity pay and leave. These are two areas where teachers currently get a much better deal than most workers.
A school worried about its budget, with a bit more freedom over pay and conditions, might be tempted to shave a few hours off PPA time. It might even consider a switch to statutory sick pay, or statutory maternity pay. From 2022, it can do any of this safe in the knowledge that no other schools are legally obliged to offer more favourable conditions.
Schools have been given the freedom over pay and conditions. With this, however, comes a responsibility over teachers’ wages and working conditions, and possibly even the blame should these begin to decline. It’s going to be a new, interesting and tricky climate for schools to navigate.
*Please don’t actually burn your copies of the STPCD. You don’t really even need to print one out, it’s all online. If you are getting rid of yours though, recycle it responsibly.