In July the Department for Education announced that teachers would receive a long overdue pay rise. All educators on the main pay range would receive 3.5%. The changes were due to come into effect in September, but many staff are still waiting.
So where is the money?
Academies receive their funding directly from central government, but schools without academy status receive their money from Kent County Council. Funding is allocated on a per pupil basis and topped up with grants, although these have been drastically cut back in recent years.
KCC has offered to increase the grants to cover the pay rise, but they have refused to say for how long. This has left schools in an unenviable position as without knowing how much income they will receive they are unable to plan for the future.
Once awarded pay rises cannot be taken back. If KCC removes the grant in a year or two, headteachers will be forced to make redundancies, leading to larger class sizes, worse behaviour, and poorer learning outcomes for students.
As discussions between schools and KCC continue, many teachers remain in limbo. Salaries have fallen below inflation for several years, and research shows 94% of teachers are forced to use their own money to pay for basic classroom supplies such as stationary and teaching aids.
The situation comes at an awkward time for Conservative-led KCC. In 2017 and against the advice of an independent report, Tory councillors voted to award themselves 15% pay rises. For most councillors this meant an annual increase of around £2,000, while senior cabinet members received a salary bump of nearly £10,000.
The timing has angered many public sector workers including teachers and nurses whose pay has been frozen for many years.
Education secretary Damian Hinds said: “there are no great schools without great teachers and I want us to recruit and retain brilliant teachers who are fairly rewarded for the vital work they do.
“(Teachers will receive) a fully funded pay rise of up to 3.5% – or between £800 and £1,366 for classroom teachers on the main pay range.”
Although some schools have passed on the pay increase, many are yet to do so.
With Christmas around the corner, teachers are wondering when, if ever, this pay rise will actually happen.