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Teachers 'forced to share rooms'

Published 07/04/2015

Low wages mean young teachers are having to share rooms, the NUT conference has heard
Low wages mean young teachers are having to share rooms, the NUT conference has heard

Young teachers are being forced to share rooms and struggle to get mortgages due to low salaries with little chance of pay rises, a union has claimed.

New teachers are becoming demoralised and leaving the classroom after paying for their own education to join the profession - only to find themselves stuck on a low wage, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) annual conference in Harrogate was told.

Delegates warned it will organise whatever action is necessary to defend its members rights to decent pay levels as it passed a resolution calling for an end to pay freezes and seeking a plan to restore "the real value of all teachers' salaries".

During the debate, Ian Murch, an NUT member from Bradford said: "Teachers mostly have big mortgages on small houses and they have to pay them themselves. That's if the teacher can get a mortgage. Young teachers used to be able to contact their bank or building society and say 'I earn £22,000 at the moment but it will go up to £37,000 eventually as I move up the scales' and the lender would take it into account.;

"Not now. You can't show them those pay scales, not just because you're less certain that you'll progress up them, but because officially, there aren't any. The government, and it's acquainted ally the School Teachers Review Body don't want there to be any concept of regular progression through a pay system.

"They're quite happy that a salary of £22,000 is one that a teacher, who has paid for four years for their own education to get into the profession, can be stuck on forever. No wonder an increasing number of young teachers give up demoralised. No wonder teacher training places are not being filled.

"And we have all, long-serving as well as new teachers, had the real value of our pay cut under this government. Conference, we shouldn't and we won't tolerate this disrespect for the value of teachers and of teaching any longer."

He added: "Children need good, well-motivated teachers and the trust that this needs is being destroyed. Teachers and other school staff cannot be expected to pay the price for the failure of others year, after year, after year."

Stefan Simms, an NUT member from Ealing, west London, raised concerns about a national housing crisis, adding that the average property in London now costs around £500,000.

He said he knew of some school staff who are commuting for three to four hours a day due to the unaffordability of housing near where they work.

Mr Simms went on to say he had been told by one teacher he was supporting that he " lives in a house with eight other teachers and that they share two to a room, and if it's a big room, it's three to a room".

" I was shocked, but when I shared this with other young teachers, they were not," he said.

In the last five years, teachers in England and Wales have had a pay freeze for three years followed by a one percent rise for two years.

The resolution, which was passed by delegates, instructs the union's executive to seek a series of measures from any new government, including: "An end to the pay freeze and a plan to restore, over a fixed period of time, the real value of all teachers' salaries".

It also calls for mandatory pay scales to be restored, an end to performance-related pay and a combination of a living wage and affordable housing that will allow teachers to live in London and the fringe areas of the capital.

The motion goes on to call for the union's proposals to be put to all parties in the run-up to the General Election and says the NUT should prepare for and ballot for a national campaign of industrial action, including strikes, seeking the involvement of other unions, if no progress is made in talks with the new government on agreeing and implementing the plans.

In her speech to the conference, NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: "We are a strong and committed trade union. We will fight for pay and pensions and conditions that our members deserve, we will fight for the education from qualified teachers that our children deserve and we will fight for social justice everywhere. And along the way, we will also seek to have fun, build friendships and comradeship."

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