Teachers across the country will be returning to the classroom this week after a summer that – thanks to this Tory government – will have been fraught with anxiety and financial difficulty.
Over the weekend, I released new analysis showing the impact of seven years of Conservative decisions to freeze, cap, and effectively cut the pay of teachers in classrooms across the country. The average teacher is now £5,000 worse off in real terms now compared to 2010. This is the reality of public services under a Conservative government: teachers being asked to do more and more and being given less and less to do it.
This has left teachers across the country spending their summer worrying about how they are going to make ends meet. With inflation at a four year high and wages capped yet again, the pressure on household budgets will only increase.
If there is any truth to the latest briefings that ministers are finally considering an end to the pay cap then that is welcome, but it was only a few months ago that every Tory MP voted against a Labour amendment to do just this. Any change will do nothing in the coming year, with pay already frozen, and suggestions that the cap will be lifted over three years would mean ten years of capped, frozen, or cut pay for teachers in England.
This isn’t just a worry for teachers returning to the classroom this week. For head teachers, recruiting and retaining the staff they need to keep their schools running is becoming harder and harder.
Only this week former Conservative education secretary Nicky Morgan acknowledged that during her time in office she saw public sector pay having an adverse effect on recruitment, and the independent pay review body has made the same observation.
Despite rising pupil numbers, teachers are now leaving the profession in record numbers and there are more teachers exiting than entering the profession.
With thousands of teachers flooding out of classrooms every year, any government action is already too late, and likely to be too little as well.
Labour analysis has begun to expose the extent of the crisis in our schools earlier this summer. The number of children in super-sized classes has continued to rise, with over half a million primary school pupils now crammed into classes of more than 30, many of them in classes of more than 40. Last year saw the lowest teacher entry rate for five years, and this is with the number of children increasing.
Unfortunately botched Tory policies are not just hitting the school workforce. Analysis released by the New Economics Foundation has revealed that the Government’s underfunded 30 hours free childcare offer will hit nursery worker pay and force some providers impose extra chargers on parents. This is a direct result of the Tories’ failure to match their promises with the resources necessary to meet them.
This workforce crisis is putting the education of a generation of children at risk. The best thing we can do to ensure every child has the best start in life is to ensure they have excellent teachers but instead they are seeing their teachers leave, class sizes rise, and opportunities falling away.
As a new term starts, too many of those providing education are facing impossible challenges because ministers have quite simply failed to provide the resources to match their rhetoric. This is so important because by failing to support schools or childcare settings they are not just failing the system but those it serves – our children and their parents. Quite simply, they deserve better.
Angela Rayner is shadow education secretary and MP for Ashton-under-Lyne.