School leaders are calling for a “double digit” pay rise days after the Government said school salaries should “return to a more reasonable level”.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) union said England currently has the highest number of unfilled teaching posts in over a decade, and one in seven schools in England reported at least one vacancy.

At least a 10% increase in all teaching salaries is needed to counter the “recruitment and retention crisis” and the uplift must be higher than average pay settlements in other industries across the country, it said in its evidence submitted to the independent School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) which makes pay recommendations in England.

Last week the Government told the STRB that pay rises in 2022 and last July were made during “two unprecedented years” and salaries should now “return to a more sustainable level”.

The 2023 pay rise prompted strike action to be called off.

General secretary of NAHT Paul Whiteman said the union’s evidence shows “the real-life impact of the Government’s neglect of teaching staff over the last decade.”

He said: “For every school that is missing a permanent member of staff, that is a teacher not present for children in the way that is so vitally needed.

“For secondary, that could mean not having a specialist subject teacher during exam years.

“For primary, it means not having a permanent dedicated class teacher to establish an educational bond and get to know pupils and their progress.

“The fact is that the teacher vacancy rate is higher now than it has been for over a decade, with a sharp increase over the past year especially.

“It could not be clearer that teachers and school leaders are reacting to eroded salaries and the cost-of-living crisis, as well as increasing workload, pressure and lack of wellbeing, and are leaving the profession.

“We cannot afford to let this continue.

Industrial strike
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of National Association of Head Teachers (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“Education is already in the grip of a recruitment and retention crisis, the more people leave, the worse that gets.

“The Government needs to send a clear signal to the workforce that change is coming, that starts with an urgent double digit pay uplift.”

Vacancies more than doubled between 2020 and 2022, from 1,098 to 2,334, the Department for Education found.

In new analysis of “previously hidden” data, NAHT discovered one in four secondary schools reported a vacant or temporary role.

Over half of schools in the outer boroughs of London had a job available, it added.

NAHT said it called for the fully-funded double-digit pay rise to retain and attract new staff by making teaching a more “competitive” profession in the job market.

It also aims to protect the real term value of salaries from future inflation, and move towards to restoring teachers’ pay that it says has “eroded” since 2010 from uplifts that fell below inflation.

As well as superseding settlements across the whole economy, the rise must be more than 7.3%, which was the rate of inflation in 2023 recorded by the Consumer Price Index, NAHT said.

Last July, the Government agreed to implement the STRB’s recommendation of a 6.5% increase for teachers in England.

In 2022, the Government announced a 5% pay rise for experienced teachers, with the starting salary outside London rising by 8.9%.

NAHT said the Department for Education missed the STRB’s deadline to submit evidence for the second year running.

Consequently, the union instructed the pay review body not to share their findings with Government, despite submitting them on the February 21 due date, NAHT said.

The union represents more than 37,500 head teachers, executive heads, chief executives, deputy and assistant heads, vice principals and school business leaders, across the UK education sector.