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Northern Ireland education chief's letter to teachers over salaries and conditions [Full document]

Education Authority chief executive Gavin Boyd has written to all Northern Ireland teachers over the protest for better pay and working condition. Below is his full letter.

Dear Teacher/Principal

Industrial Action in Our Schools

I am writing to you as Chair of Management Side representing the employers of teachers and the Department of Education. You will be aware that Management Side negotiates teacher terms and conditions including pay, with the recognised teacher unions who are members of the Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council (NITC).

We are very concerned that the ongoing industrial action is seriously affecting the education of children and young people, the effective operation of schools, working relationships and the morale of teachers. We know that teachers, who are dedicated to developing their pupils, do not want to be in a situation where children are clearly being disadvantaged.

As employers we certainly wish to see resolution of our differences and a speedy return to the environment which has made many of our schools examples of educational excellence. From an employer’s perspective it has been disheartening to hear some say that our teachers are not valued.

This is simply not true. We see the professionalism and commitment of dedicated teachers every day. Indeed, it is because of the vital importance of teaching that we are focused on resolving those issues that are impacting on the quality of education and support which many of our pupils are receiving.

We believe that the debate about the current dispute has been confused by misinformation on a number of key issues. I set out below the employers’ perspective on some of these issues:

Teachers’ Pay

The average teacher’s pay in Northern Ireland is just over £40,000 pa. This compares very favourably with other graduate professions locally and is actually higher than the average teacher’s pay in England and Wales.

Since 2013, pay for teachers not at the top of their scale has increased by almost 7%. The teacher unions rejected an overall offer of 2.5% for 2015/16 – this offer included a condition of the removal of automatic incremental progression, which in any event, is relevant to less than 10% of teachers.

The pay of teachers, like all public sector employees, is managed within the context of public pay policy. For 2015, NI Executive Pay Policy allowed for a 1% increase inclusive of incremental progression. In 2016, Executive Pay Policy allowed for a 1% increase in addition to incremental progression, subject to affordability. You will have seen recent publicity in relation to the pressures on the Education Budget.

There have been no reductions in teachers’ pay. There have, however, been increases in teachers’ contributions to their pension and to national insurance.

Teachers’ Pensions

Increases to Teachers’ pension contributions from employees clearly represent a reduction in take home pay. However, the increases in  contributions are part of a wider government strategy to ensure public sector pensions remain affordable and sustainable. They apply to employees in all walks of public life from civil servants to health service employees, from non-teaching staff in education to police service employees. Despite the increased contributions, public service pensions remain attractive and in general offer much better terms than those available in the private sector.

The changes to public servants’ pension arrangements (including teachers) are underpinned by legislation. They are not matters which can be negotiated on.

National Insurance Contributions

Average National Insurance Contributions have increased since 2009. These increases have been introduced throughout the UK as a result of Westminster Budgets. They impact not only on teachers but also on all workers across the private and public sector.

Teacher Workload

NITC has made the argument that, with the introduction of a series of initiatives, teacher workload has increased. As employers, we wish to ensure that classroom practice reflects the development of best practice and curriculum changes in line with Executive policy. We recognise that this must be done in consultation with teachers, and within current terms and conditions of employment.

We are committed to finding a way to reconcile the Executive’s objectives of improving educational outcomes with teachers’ concerns about workload, and are committed to negotiating this in the context of a wider agreement on pay and workload.

Engagement and Negotiation

We are currently engaging with the teaching unions in a positive and constructive manner and we hope that we can reach agreement on issues relating to pay and workload. We have asked the unions to suspend industrial action.

Final Comments

Teachers are the bedrock of our education system. You have a key role to play in delivering successful educational outcomes and through this contributing to future economic growth and the development of our society. We appreciate and value your role and we are listening to the concerns that you raise. However, we all must recognise that we operate in an environment where there is a limit to the amount of money available for pay increases.

Notwithstanding all of the challenges, we believe that with active engagement on all sides, we can resolve these current difficulties.

Yours sincerely

Gavin Boyd

Chair, Management Side

Teachers' Negotiating Committee

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