Page last updated at 15:28 GMT, Monday, 13 April 2009 16:28 UK

Teachers demand 10% pay increase

By Gary Eason
BBC News website education editor, at the NUT conference

NUT strike
The strike in April 2008 disrupted thousands of schools

One of the biggest teachers' unions in England and Wales is demanding a pay rise of 10% or at least £3,000, whichever is greater.

Delegates at the annual National Union of Teachers conference backed the call despite warnings it would be unseemly when people are being made redundant.

One said she was so fed up with the job's strains and repaying her £25,000 student loan that she was going abroad.

The government said teachers' pay and conditions had never been better.

The average teacher's salary was £33,000, it said.

But Becky Williams, a history teacher from Nottingham, is going to work in a private school in Kenya.

She told the conference that after four years in the profession she was earning just £26,000.

Asking for 10% - is stealing from the poor of the world
Michael Wrought-Brookes
NUT member

"I have handed in my notice. I am going to teach abroad,'' she said.

She later told journalists she was going to work in a British-run international school, earning £100 a month more than in England.

In Kenya's state primary schools more than 200,000 teachers staged a 10-day strike earlier this year until the government offered to double their salaries over three years.

The lowest paid receive about £91 ($130) a month, leaving them struggling to pay their bills.

In the NUT conference debate, Michael Wrought-Brookes from North Yorkshire opposed the proposed pay demand, arguing that it would be wrong when people were being made redundant in their thousands.

He said it was folly to think standards of living in Britain could continue rising if world poverty were to be tackled in the way that the conference had just demanded in a separate debate.

"Britain has been stealing from the poor of the world for 500 years and is still doing it," he said.

"And asking for 10% is exactly that: it is stealing from the poor of the world."

Habitat sinks

But a Bradford teacher, Ian Murch, said the recession should not be used as an excuse to cut teachers' pay when the consumer prices index was still more than 3%.

"We take no lessons in morality from government ministers, who fit out their homes with stone sinks from Habitat on their expenses, who pay their husbands more than a teacher earns to be their personal assistants and who don't appear to engage in even a hint of performance management of what they get up to.''

He successfully proposed that NUT members should be balloted for industrial action if the 2.3% pay rise agreed for September, as part of a three-year deal, is reduced.

Last year the NUT abandoned industrial action over pay, after a one-day teachers' strike in April that had been the biggest for 21 years, closing about one in 10 schools in England and Wales.

Responding to the conference decisions, England's schools minister, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, said: "Teachers' pay and conditions have never been better.

"We have increased their pay by 19% in real terms since 1998 which means the average teacher is on nearly £33,000," she claimed.

"We have also cut teachers' working hours, dramatically reduced the amount of administrative tasks they are expected to do, doubled the number of support staff and given them time outside of the classroom to plan and prepare lessons."

Special units

The conference also threatened ballots on industrial action against moves to privatise the exclusion units for disruptive pupils.

The government has announced a dozen pilot schemes in England in which private companies will run units for pupils who have been excluded or are at risk of being.

These include a city farm, a football training centre and a scheme based on Army Cadet Force training.

Delegates predicted that the numbers of troubled children being sent to such referral units would rise as family problems grew during the recession.

The centres, known as PRUs, are supposed to provide short-term help to get children back into mainstream classes.

NUT national officer Jerry Glazier said: "We do not want, in any shape or form, privatisation which will simply put up barriers to that partnership working, not take them down.''

Rachel Lynch, a special educational needs teacher from Bristol, said: "These services should not be used as a dumping ground for children who do not fit in to the mainstream.''

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