Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Mathematics of Teachers Pay

The Mathematics of Pay

There were some interesting exchanges in Hansard recently on teacher recruitment and pay.

Deputy S.Y. Mézec: "If conditions are so much better for teachers here than they are in the U.K. why is it the department is struggling to recruit teachers for certain key subjects? He has spoken about the conditions being better for teachers on the whole but we also know that there is an inordinate amount of stress and mental health problems that teachers here face, which must surely have at least some link to the financial worries some of them have. Given that the teachers take the opposite view to the Assistant Minister and the department about this, would he like to take the opportunity to stand and say that they are wrong and that their view on this is clearly misinformed despite the fact that they are the people on the front line?"

The Connétable of St. Brelade: "Attracting teachers is challenging across the U.K. and it is becoming more challenging here. Having spoken to head teachers myself during visits to schools, clearly attracting teachers, especially in the secondary school sector, is becoming more and more difficult but nevertheless when positions are advertised we are getting a great number of people looking for those positions so I think we will still attract teachers here but it is becoming increasingly challenging but it is across the U.K."
"The department believes that teaching in Jersey is still a very attractive proposition for those from the U.K. We have got lower income tax here, particularly as you progress through the ranks of teachers. Teachers work fewer days in Jersey during the year and the school days are slightly shorter on average. Working in Jersey offers an attractive lifestyle environment. I think we all appreciate that as well. I know from my own visits to both primary and secondary schools, this does not apply to all children, but generally children are better behaved than in many inner city areas of the U.K. and I think we are thankful that our school buildings are in excellent condition and the facilities are very good, and that is something."

That was obviously written before the recent survey which showed that a quarter of Jersey’s teachers have been verbally abused by parents during the last year and one in 14 physically assaulted by pupils. Perhaps not as bad as inner cities, but still not ideal!

What is remarkable is how the Constable is at odds, and I dare say much more honest, than the States Employment Board. There is no evidence to suggest that Jersey is struggling to recruit teachers, the States Employment Board has said after unions claimed that a one per cent pay award would leave schools struggling to find staff. That's not what the Constable is saying! 

He is admitting the problem, and of course there is a serious problem especially in the UK, but also in Jersey. The States Employment Board seems to be burying its head in the sand.

As the Guardian reported recently:

"Sir Michael Wilshaw, who is the chief inspector of England’s schools, warns that the country is facing a “teacher brain drain” at a time when schools across the country are already struggling to fill vacancies amid rising pupil numbers."

"Lured by enticing offers of competitive, tax-free salaries, free accommodation and a warmer climate, teachers are taking their hard-earned qualifications to the Gulf states, the far east and beyond, where there is growing demand for a “traditional” English education, says Wilshaw."

In the UK, to address the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, Wilshaw once again called for financial incentives to ensure trainees start their teaching career in areas where they are needed most. “As far as I’m concerned, that means Barnsley not Bangkok, Doncaster not Doha, and King’s Lynn not Kuala Lumpur.”

Now where demand outstrips supply, financial incentives are the best way of getting recruits from moving to other markets where conditions are better. So how do conditions for teachers stack up in Jersey?

The Connétable of St. Brelade: Clearly, the States and Government are currently under extreme financial pressure; there is no doubt about that. But when you look at the pay of teachers locally and compare them to the U.K. there are some quite, I think, dramatic differences and I will take a couple of examples. Unqualified teachers in Jersey, £30,000 or around about that a year. In England it is £16,000. I will go to experienced teachers in Jersey: £49,500 a year, England £37,500. So, again, I think the differentials are still higher. I think there are good opportunities for teachers coming into the Island and there are also opportunities here as well and I think teachers are well looked after here. But clearly we are under, I think in terms of pay restraint, clearly it is difficult but I think that they are well paid for the services that they provide the Island

Now actually on £37,500 a year in the UK, the effective rate of tax is all at the lower 20% band, and there is a tax free allowance first, so that the statement about “lower income tax here” may apply at higher levels – Deputy Headmasters etc etc, but does not apply to the average pay.

What should also be noted is that price levels for consumer goods and services in Jersey were 9% greater than the UK average. Consumer prices levels were marginally greater in Jersey than in London (by 2%). Price levels for food and non-alcoholic drinks were nearly a fifth greater (19%) in Jersey than the UK average, partly no doubt because of the cost of importing goods, and GST on foodstuffs (in the UK food is VAT free).

The recent statistics also show that there was large price variation for the expenditure categories comprising predominantly services; household and housing services were nearly a fifth greater in Jersey (19%) than the UK average and miscellaneous goods and services were 15% greater in Jersey. In fact, for consumer goods and services (including housing costs, education and health), the overall price level for consumer goods and services in Jersey, including housings costs, education and health, was a fifth (20%) greater than the UK average.

Why is this important? Because it may well be cheaper or as cheap to live in the UK on the £37,500 as it is to live on the £49,500 here. What appears on the surface to be a straightforward differential turns out to be anything but.

I'm not saying the Constable is wrong in saying Jersey is more attractive than the UK, but it is not just a simplistic matter of comparing figures, and more detailed work would need to be done before a proper comparison could be made. What we cannot just do is look at the difference in pay as if that is enough.

And there are more complex issues like pensions. If we look at the Isle of Man, we find that current teaching vacancies warn UK candidates that the UK Teachers’ Pension Scheme treats the Isle of Man as an overseas scheme. It means teachers who come to the island and remain in teaching here for more than five years would not be able to rejoin the UK scheme as an existing member.

Kim Johnson said he wanted the issue in the Isle of Man to be looked at with ‘greater immediacy’. He said: ‘There’s a need for secondary school teachers. There’s a recruitment crisis emerging here. ‘If we don’t address the problem of teachers’ pensions you won’t keep the ones you have got, and those you need to get might not want to come.’ 

I don't know the situation in Jersey, but if it is the same, or similar, that may also put teachers off., but it shows again that simplistic comparisons which do not factor in cost of living, cost of housing and pensions mean that we are not comparing like with like. 

It's not the Constable's fault - he's been briefed by his civil servants, but what he needs to do is to go back to them and see if more accurate comparisons can be made.

1 comment:

James said...

household and housing services were nearly a fifth greater in Jersey (19%) than the UK average

This is the rub, because much the largest percentage of a person's expenditure - here or in the UK - will be on housing.