Fifth Report Contents

Instrument drawn to the special attention of the House

School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Order 2017 (SI 2017/811)

Date laid: 3 August 2017

Parliamentary procedure: negative

This Order serves to introduce new pay and allowance ranges for school teachers, reflecting the recommendations of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), for a 2% uplift to the minimum and maximum of the main pay range, and a 1% uplift to the minimum and maximum of all other pay ranges and allowances in the national pay framework. The Department for Education consulted on the Order over only three weeks in July 2017, attracting widespread criticism from respondents; and laid the Order and brought it into force during the Parliamentary summer recess.

In our view, allowing only three weeks for consultation meant that the Department failed to recognise the scale of the task faced by respondents; the fact that the three weeks allocated were in July, during the busy time at the end of the school year, will have made responding all the more difficult. We are not surprised that almost all respondents were dissatisfied: we consider it unacceptable to allow so short a period for a consultation exercise at a time of year when respondents face so many other pressures.

We also regard it as unacceptable that Departments seek to make good delays in progressing secondary legislation by reducing the period for Parliamentary scrutiny or, as in this case, timing matters in such a way that scrutiny is effectively nullified. We look to Departments to manage their programmes of secondary legislation so that Parliament, and external interested parties, have genuine opportunities to influence such legislation: the Department for Education’s handling of this Order fails to demonstrate such management.

We draw this Order to the special attention of the House on the ground that there appear to be inadequacies in the consultation process which relates to the instrument.

1.The Department for Education (DfE) has laid the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Order 2017, with an Explanatory Memorandum (EM) and the “School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document 2017 and Guidance on School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions” (“the Document”). DfE explains that the Order provides that the remuneration and conditions of employment of school teachers are to be determined by reference to the provisions set out in section 2 of the Document. In turn, the Document includes new pay and allowance ranges which reflect the recommendations of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), for a 2% uplift to the minimum and maximum of the main pay range, and a 1% uplift to the minimum and maximum of all other pay ranges and allowances in the national pay framework.

2.DfE says that, in October 2016, the Secretary of State asked the STRB to consider application of the 2017 pay award for teachers within the context of the Government’s policy that public sector pay awards should average 1%. The STRB’s 27th Report1 and recommendations were received by the Department in April 2017; DfE held a three-week consultation process from 10 to 28 July, after which the Secretary of State accepted the STRB’s recommendations. DfE laid the Order on 3 August, to come into force on 1 September 2017.

3.In the EM, DfE gives an explanation for the delay between receiving the STRB’s report in April and launching the consultation in July. It attributes this delay, first to the General Election “purdah” arrangements, and then to the need for the new Government to consider the recommendations again within the context of the Election result and, in particular, “the need to gain cross-government clearance of the report’s recommendations at a time when there was wider ongoing discussion around the public sector pay cap”. It was only after such discussion had been concluded that the STRB report was published and consultation began.

4.At paragraph 8.3 of the EM, DfE notes that all respondents did not consider that STRB’s recommendations went far enough to address significant recruitment and retention issues; and that almost all respondents were dissatisfied with the three-week consultation period.

5.We put a number of questions to DfE about the Order, and we are publishing the replies received from the Department as Appendix 1.

6.DfE has told us that the objective of the pay system is to provide schools with the flexibility to recruit and retain capable teachers and school leaders; ensuring affordability, both nationally and at school level; and increasing the autonomy available to school leaders to address individual circumstances through pay. Against this objective, we asked DfE how it reacted to respondents’ claims that there were significant recruitment and retention issues for the teaching profession. The Department has said that “at a national level we are retaining and recruiting the teachers we need. We recognise however that the situation is becoming increasingly challenging and that this is more acute in certain subjects and particular schools or areas of the country”.

7.Noting DfE’s statement in the EM that it would have preferred a longer consultation period, and that most respondents were dissatisfied with the three-week consultation period, we queried whether the Department regarded the consultation as a satisfactory basis for implementing the proposals. DfE has said that, taking account of the recommendations in the STRB report, it took the view (in July) that it would be possible to hold a meaningful consultation and still ensure that teachers received their pay awards on time. It has also said that consultees had previously had a six-week period in which to submit written evidence to the STRB, and that the Department regularly meets most of the statutory consultees to discuss pay and conditions issues. It considers, therefore, that the wider views of the consultees on teacher pay were well known prior to this consultation.

8.We are not persuaded by the Department’s arguments. We have already noted that DfE attributed some of the delay in publishing the STRB report to ongoing discussion around the public sector pay cap, after the June election. Given that there appeared to be a shift in the climate of opinion on this fundamental issue since the STRB completed its work, it would have been reasonable to expect respondents to re-assess views and comments expressed in earlier contacts, and potentially to present new arguments. In our view, allowing only three weeks for this process meant that the Department failed to recognise the scale of the task faced by consultation respondents; the fact that the three weeks allocated were in July, during the busy time at the end of the school year, will have made responding to the consultation all the more difficult. We are not surprised that almost all respondents were dissatisfied: we consider it unacceptable to allow so short a period for a consultation exercise at a time of year when respondents face so many other pressures.

9.We also asked DfE to justify its handling of an Order that is of undoubted significance for public sector pay policy, given that the instrument was laid on 3 August, well over a week after Parliament rose for the summer recess, and brought into force on 1 September, before the return of Parliament, rendering Parliamentary scrutiny ineffectual.

10.DfE has said that it has been annual practice since 2009 to make and lay the Pay Order and Document in the first or second week of August, with the Order coming into effect on 1 September; and that the laying of the pay order is the end of a lengthy process in which there is little room for manoeuvre. It states that it usually receives the STRB report in April each year and in normal circumstances is able to conduct separate consultation exercises for the report and the Document; but it adds that, in the past three years, there have been two general elections and the EU referendum, all of which have significantly delayed the process. It adds that this is not a practice about which it has previously received criticism, apart from last year.

11.In relation to the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Order 2016 (SI 2016/831), we noted in our 8th Report of Session 2016–172 that DfE held a four-week consultation process, from 6 July to 2 August 2016, on the STRB’s 26th Report and the revised draft Document; and that the majority of the respondents were unhappy about what they saw as an unacceptable and avoidable delay in publishing the report and consultation, which in their view left schools very little time to digest and implement the pay award in September.

12.Again, we are not persuaded by DfE’s arguments about the timing of these processes. Experience in recent years has shown up the difficulty caused to respondents by late and shortened consultations which, albeit that there have been unforeseen political events, could have been avoided if the Government formulated its public sector pay strategy sooner. We re-emphasise the concern which we have expressed in other recent reports, that we regard it as unacceptable that Departments seek to make good delays in progressing secondary legislation by reducing the period for Parliamentary scrutiny or, as in this case, timing matters in such a way that scrutiny is effectively nullified. We look to Departments to manage their programmes of secondary legislation so that Parliament, and external interested parties, have genuine opportunities to influence such legislation: the Department for Education’s handling of this Order fails to demonstrate such management.





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