Final NEOST draft STPCD and STRB report 21 Sept 2023

NEOST response to the consultation on the Government’s response to the School Teachers’ Review Body’s 33rd Report and the draft 2023 School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document.


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1. The National Employers’ Organisation for School Teachers (NEOST) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the consultation on the Government’s response to the School Teachers’ Review Body’s (STRB) 33rd Report, the draft 2023 School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) and the Pay Order 2023. 

Executive summary

2. Our headline responses to the consultation are as follows.  


  • Welcomes the decision to fully implement the STRB recommendations for teachers’ pay 2023/24.
  • Welcomes the Government’s proposal of a minimum starting salary for teachers of £30,000 from September 2023.
  • Welcomes the Government’s decision to provide new additional financial support, including an additional ‘one off’ hardship fund of £40 million and asks that the Government ensures it continues to provide adequate financial support so that all schools can fully implement the pay award without having to make significant adjustments that are likely to affect the quality of education.
  • Welcomes the DfE, establishing a task force where employers are represented to look at recommending ways of reducing the workload of teachers and leaders.
  • In relation to next year’s STRB remit, asks for a review of Upper Pay Rate (UPR) and salary safeguarding specific issues to be included.
  • Seeks an effective consultation process next year that supports the statutory financial management processes for all schools, avoiding announcements and consultations held almost entirely during the school holidays.  Respecting that good governance requires time for processes to enable all school employers to plan, consult and implement a pay award by the1 September each year.


3. As reported in the 2022 School Workforce Census, there were 468,371 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers, an increase of 2,800 FTE teachers since 2021 that are potentially in scope for this proposed pay award. NEOST notes that while academies are free to determine pay outside of the STPCD, many of them still follow it.

4. NEOST is a statutory consultee to the STRB process and is the employer representative body invited to respond. It draws membership from the Local Government Association, the National Society (Church of England and Church in Wales) for the Promotion of Education, the Catholic Education Service, and the Confederation of School Trusts. The LGA provides the secretariat to NEOST.

5. NEOST also represents the employer side for the national collective agreement on conditions outside of the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), commonly known as the Burgundy Book.  This agreement continues to apply in Wales, and therefore, the Welsh Local Government Association remains a member of NEOST despite teacher pay having been devolved to the Welsh Government.

6. As the role of the local authority (LA) in relation to school employment matters is easily misunderstood, it is always helpful to provide some context.  School pay decisions are delegated to individual schools in regulations under the Education Act 2002. However, LAs are the employers of teachers in community and voluntary controlled schools. This affords them certain advisory rights in relation to school employment decisions and creates liabilities under general employment law. For example, under the Teachers’ Pensions Scheme and generally the Local Government Pension Scheme, the LA is deemed the employer in all maintained schools. In Foundation and Voluntary-Aided schools, the governing body is the employer of school staff.

Our consultation with stakeholders

7. The strategic lead for the education of children and young people is provided by 152 English LAs. To inform this response, the NEOST secretariat consulted all education authorities, Employer Link (the LGA subscription service for academy trusts), the National Society (Church of England and Church in Wales) for the promotion of Education, the Catholic Education Service, and the Confederation of School Trusts.

8. The LGA undertook an online survey to inform this response.  All 152 LAs were invited to complete the consultation, to which 60 LAs responded (40 per cent response rate, compared to 43 per cent in 2022).  Please refer to Appendix C for the full LA results of the survey.

9. The same survey was sent to Employer Link academy trust subscribers, which resulted in 20 (41 in 2021) academy trusts (ATs) responding. Please refer to Appendix D for the full results.

10. We achieved a total of 80 (106 in 2022) responses, which, given the tight timescale over the summer holiday period, was a good response rate. The combined survey results can be found in Appendix A-B. Where we found significant differences in opinions between LAs and ATs, we have highlighted these within the report below.

11. Academy Trusts and LAs also provided views based on a combination of their own knowledge and experience and feedback provided to them by schools where circumstances allowed. In addition, we have received feedback to inform this submission from ten regional school HR networks, whose members provide support to both maintained and academy schools, and a national sounding board of LA school HR practitioners from every English region. We also took soundings via the Employer Link national network of HR leads in Multi Academy Trusts (MATs); this covers approximately 300 MATS and over 3,000 academies. 

Proposed teachers’ pay award for 2023/24 and current environment

12. We welcome the Government’s acceptance of the STRB’s recommendations for 2023/24 teacher pay awards. We note that the publication of the STRB’s 33rd Report in July 2023 was aligned with the publication of a joint statement made by the Government and the education unions NEU, NASUWT, NAHT and ASCL. We also note the proposed pay awards are a 6.5 per cent uplift to all pay points and allowances for both teachers and leaders, apart from a 6.8 per cent starting salary in the London Fringe area and a 7.1 per cent increase to the minimum starting salary for teachers in the England range.  As a result, the minimum starting salary in England is £30,000, meeting the Government's aspiration.

13. The unions (NAHT, ASCL, NEU and NASUWT) recommendation that members accept the offer was well received by employers, as was union members’ acceptance of the offer following indicative ballots, thus ending any further industrial action related to the dispute on teachers’ pay.

14. However, we are aware that the NASUWT has notified a significant number of LAs and school employers that they have a legal mandate for industrial action and will be commencing a period of ‘action short of strike action’ from 18 September 2023 as a result of a dispute over workload and working hours.  In summary, our understanding is that the NASUWT is instructing members in all eligible schools to limit their working time by working to rule and not undertaking any duties outside of what is stipulated in the statutory STPCD.  Therefore, it is likely to be another challenging term both operationally and in terms of the general employee relations environment.

15. In acknowledging the pressures on workload (and presumably the potential impact this challenge may be having on retention figures), NEOST welcomes the establishment of a task force by the DfE, where employers are represented to look at recommending ways of reducing the workload of teachers and leaders.

16. With regard to our survey results, we were pleased to see that the vast majority (89%) of ATs’ and LAs' responses, broadly speaking, welcomed the proposed pay awards and additional new funding, as shown below in Table 1.

Table 1 - Broadly speaking, do you welcome these recommendations for the 23/24 teachers’ pay award.
Yes 71 responses (89%)
No 3 responses (4%)
Don't know  6 responses (7%)

Financial challenges


17. The teachers' pay award is being funded via an additional £525m in 2023-24 and £900m in 2024-25. The DfE estimates that this is equivalent to the total costs of the pay award as it adds an additional 3 per cent of funding to the 3.5 per cent (DfE estimated to STRB in their evidence was affordable and budgeted for) in the average school.

18. In addition, the Secretary of State announced an extension to the support currently available to individual schools facing the most difficult financial circumstances by up to £40m.  It is envisaged that this will provide additional funding to strengthen the existing financial support available to schools.

19. The DfE has confirmed that centrally employed teachers (CETs) and teachers in maintained nurseries are not included in the new Teachers’ Pay Additional Grant 2023. This creates a funding gap, which will result in further financial pressure on schools. For illustrative purposes, two large LAs provided an estimate on the cost from 1/9/23 until 31/3/24 of the 6.5 per cent pay award to be in the region of £240k for CETs on average with the full-year effect in excess of £400k per annum.  The LGA Workforce team has raised these issues on behalf of all our school members and stakeholders, and NEOST includes those concerns here and would urge the DfE to give further consideration to including the costs of CETs within this year's pay grant.

20. The government’s affordability estimates, as detailed in DfE’s schools cost note, are based on national averages, not school-level analysis.  As highlighted in our Executive Summary, paragraph two, NEOST asks that the Government ensure that all schools can fully implement the pay award without having to make significant adjustments (as 44 per cent of our responses indicated they had to this year) that are likely to affect the quality of education. our survey results in paragraphs 30 and 32, evidence the result that some geographic areas and types of schools face the biggest financial challenge in being able to afford to full implement the proposed pay award within existing budgets.  NEOST asks that the DfE work collaboratively with us to improve the methodology for assessing affordability, ensuring the affordability calculation includes an understanding of sensitivity to different circumstances and reflects the different financial years (maintained and academy).

Affordability - schoolteachers’ pay bill

21. We asked our stakeholders if this year's pay award, which is estimated to add a 6.5 per cent increase to the average school teachers’ pay bill, with an estimated 3% additional funding from DfE was largely manageable within existing budgets for the majority of their schools. You will see from the results below (Table 2) that there is roughly a 50:50 split in responses. Fifty per cent indicated their schools would be able to afford to implement the award, compared to 45 per cent of respondents indicating they would not, with a further 5 per cent not knowing.  This suggests that even with the additional 3 per cent funding, a significant number of schools across the system do not think they can afford to fully implement the proposed pay awards within existing budgets.

Table 2 - This pay award assumes a 6.5% increase to the teacher pay bill, with an estimated 3% additional funding from DfE. Is this largely manageable within existing budgets for the majority of your schools?
Yes 40 responses (50%)
No 36 responses (45%)
Don't know 4 responses (5%)

22. However, although half of combined responses indicated that the award is manageable within existing budgets, this was not without 44 per cent needing to make some reasonable adjustments to existing budgets and, concerningly, a further 43 per cent (as shown below in Table 3) indicating they needed to make significant adjustments to budgets in order to manage the pay award for 2023.

Table 3 - How will your schools manage the cost of this pay award? Please indicate which of the following scenarios most closely applies? (Answer with the majority of schools represented in mind.)
Schools budgeted for this scenario, so is manageable  10 responses (13%)
Some reasonable adjustments to existing budgets required (without impacting curriculum/services jobs)  35 responses (44%)
Significant adjustments to budgets are required, which may impact existing curriculum/services/jobs.     34 responses (43%)
Left Blank    1 response (2%)

23. There was a notable difference in the response from ATs compared to LAs with regards to the ‘adjustments’ in budgets, with 48 per cent of LAs indicating they would need to make significant adjustments to budgets compared to 25 per cent of ATs. What is clear is that a significant number of schools across the school system are having to identify efficiencies to balance their budgets.  Previous NEOST evidence has captured initial thoughts from our stakeholders about the most likely places for necessary savings to be found, reducing Teaching Assistants, for example.

Overall budget position

24. The Government have not yet published the guidance/ criteria for the publicly announced additional one-off £40 million hardship fund announced by the SoS. Therefore, we asked our stakeholders about their expectations of the likelihood of any of their schools applying to access the funding. The results are shown in Table 4 below. When you consider previous responses as to the level of significant budget adjustments needed to fully implement the pay awards, in that context, it may not be surprising that 40 per cent of responses indicated that they thought a few of their schools would be likely to think that they would be eligible to apply to access the hardship fund. Nearly 1 in 5 (18 per cent) said they expected a significant number of their schools would need to do so.

Table 4 - Do you expect schools in your authority or trust to be applying (when details are known) for access to the £40m funds available for individual schools facing the most difficult financial services.
Yes – most of our schools   6 responses (8%)
Yes – a significant number of schools 14 responses (18%)
Yes – a few schools 32 responses (40%)
No, none of our schools 13 responses (16%)
Don’t know  15 responses (19%)

25. When we compared the ATs' responses to the LAs' responses, we found significant differences of opinion on this point. For example, fifteen per cent of ATs responses predicted ‘a few of their schools’ were likely to apply for hardship funding compared to 48 per cent of LAs.  Only 3 per cent of responses from LAs indicated that they estimated none of their schools would apply, whilst ATs responses put that figure at 55 per cent.

26. The NEOST secretariat is currently working with the Government, informed by school finance experts, to ensure that the guidance helps to manage school expectations on the size of the additional funding, as it is likely that not all LAs will meet the eligibility criteria. The intention is that the guidance should convey key messages in that LAs that do meet the funding eligibility criteria are most likely to be able to fund the extension of any existing offers of financial management support rather than any sizeable amounts of cash.  The guidance is expected to allow for a high degree of autonomy and flexibility for LAs to direct any additional funds as agreed by the local schools’ forum.   

27. We asked our stakeholders to indicate the size of any total affordability gap, reminding them of the additional money given to schools this year, but taking into account the impact of this proposed teacher pay award, the potential support staff pay award and increases in energy costs etc. The most commonly cited, at 28 per cent of all responses, indicated an affordability gap of more than five per cent. However, we noted a difference in the balance of responses with 32 per cent of LAs, indicating an affordability gap of more than five per cent, compared to 10 per cent for ATs, notwithstanding that more than five per cent was still the modal result for ATs. For trend purposes, we identified a reduction of 12 per cent, from the 2022/23 responses that indicated an affordability gap of more than five per cent, which may be a result of the additional funding for the teachers’ pay awards this year.

What will be the impact of all funding demands so taking into account the teachers’ pay award, the potential support staff pay award (adding £1925 or 3.88% for points above the NJC pay spine if agreed), predicted rates of inflation e.g. energy and food costs, etc – what is the average projected affordability gap for your schools.

Table 5
0%    11 responses (13%)
0.1 – 1%   10 responses (12%)
1.1 – 2%    5 responses (6%)
2.1 – 3%     8 responses (9%)
3.1 – 4%     9 responses (10%)
4.1 – 5%   16 responses (19%)
More than 5% 24 responses (28%)
Don’t know   3 responses (3%)

28. Noting that Table 5 shows combined results, a significant affordability gap of between 2.1 and three per cent was indicated by 20 per cent of ATs (22 per cent in 2022) but three per cent of LAs (19 per cent in 2022). Therefore, the size of the affordability gap was less consistently felt across the sector this year.

Types of schools with a disproportionate impact

Our stakeholders across both ATs and LAs indicated that on the whole, smaller schools (61per cent) are likely to have the most significant financial challenge implementing the proposed pay award, followed by primary schools (41per cent) and special schools (26 per cent) as shown in Table 6 below. We hear anecdotally that one of the potential causes of rural schools and primary schools facing the most significant financial challenge is the number of pupils falling in primary schools in some areas; this has a knock-on impact on the level of funding a school attracts, whilst still needing to fund a good teacher in every classroom.

 Table 6 - Rank them in order with 1 likely to have the biggest challenge.

Table 6 - Within your area, which types of schools, do you think are likely to have the biggest challenge (financially) in implementing this pay award?
  1 2 3 4 5
Primary schools 30 responses  (41%) 26 responses  (36%) 9 responses  (12%) 8 responses 
0 responses 
Secondary schools 6 responses  (8%) 10 responses  (14%) 24 responses  (32%) 16 responses 
18 responses 
Special schools 16 responses  (26%) 11 responses  (18%) 18 responses  (29%) 11 responses 
6 responses 
PRUs 5 responses  (9%) 10 responses  (18%) 8 responses  (15%) 10 responses 
22 responses 
Smaller schools 38 responses  (61%) 16 responses  (26%) 5 responses  (8%) 2 responses 
1 responses 
Other e.g Middle Schools 6 responses  (16%) 3 responses  (8%) 6 responses  (16%) 6 responses 
16 responses 


Therefore, NEOST asks the Government to provide adequate financial support so that all schools, including smaller schools, primary schools, and special schools, can implement the pay award without having to make significant adjustments that are likely to affect the quality of education.

Geographic locations with the biggest estimated challenges

31. Exploring the question of whether there might be any regional impact on a school's ability to fund this award, our survey responses indicated that rural schools (61per cent), followed by schools in areas with high levels of deprivation (46 per cent) and coastal towns (21 per cent) were the geographical places most likely to have the most significant financial challenge. It should be noted that ATs indicated that schools in areas with high levels of deprivation faced the most significant financial challenge in implementing the pay awards in their trust.

 Table 7 - Rank them in order with 1 likely to have the biggest challenge.

Table 7 - Within your area, which geographical locations, do you think are likely to have the biggest challenge (financially) in implementing this pay award?
  1 2 3 4 5
Coastal Towns 6 responses (21%) 8 responses (29%) 10 responses (36%) 2 responses (7%) 2 responses (7%)
Rural Schools 25 responses (61%) 10 responses (25%) 5 responses (12%) 1 response (2%) 0 responses (0%)
Inner City Provision 8 responses (19%) 10 responses (24%) 9 responses (21%) 12 responses (29%) 3 responses (7%)
Areas of Deprivation 28 responses (46%) 19 responses (31%) 9 responses (15%) 5 responses (8%) 0 responses (0%)
Other 4 responses (13%) 7 responses (22%) 3 responses (9%) 5 responses (16%) 13 responses (41%)


32. This evidence reinforces the NEOST position above, in that it is critical that the Government provide adequate financial support to ensure that all schools, including rural schools, schools in areas with high levels of deprivation and in coastal towns, can implement the pay award with regards to avoiding having to make efficiencies that risk impacting on the educational offer for pupils.


33. Just over 50 per cent of responses indicated it was too early to predict if the proposed pay award for experienced teachers and leaders would support improved retention rates within schools (see Table 8). The remaining 47 per cent were roughly split between predicting that it would or it would not. Several responses highlighted that although pay was an important factor for teachers and leaders considering leaving the profession, it was not the only factor, with workload being commonly acknowledged as the biggest reason for teachers and leaders leaving the profession. Therefore, a mixed response suggests that it is too early to predict if the proposed pay award will improve retention rates at this stage and underlines the importance of the task force looking at workload.

Table 8 - Notwithstanding affordability challenges, will this anticipated pay award experienced teachers and leaders support better retention rates within schools?
Yes 20 responses (25%)
No 18 responses (22%)
Don't know 42 responses (53%)

34. It has been reported in numerous surveys over the years that the workload of teachers and leaders is one of the main reasons why people leave the profession. NEOST notes that when the Department published its recruitment and retention strategy in 2019 (due to be refreshed shortly), reducing workload was one of the top five priorities. The Department published a toolkit of practical resources and guidance for schools, which was last updated in July 2022. Reducing the workload of school teachers has been a long-standing ambition of the Government, education unions and employers, as it negatively impacts the attraction, recruitment and retention of good teachers and leaders. NEOST welcomes the Government’s continued commitment to tackle this challenging issue.


35. We asked employers who operated within the London and Fringe areas if the lower percentage increases for London and the Fringe were, in their opinion, likely to have a negative impact over the longer term. There was a total of 23 relevant responses, with seven predicting that it would have a negative impact compared with six responses indicating they did not think that it would. A further ten responses indicated they could not predict the impact over the longer term of the lower percentage increase at this stage. So, there is a mixed response here, indicating it is too early for the relevant employers to predict the impact over the longer term. Nevertheless, acknowledging the higher cost of living in and around the capital, it may be important to monitor this situation to ensure that the reduction in the salary differential around the London area doesn’t negatively impact the recruitment and retention of good teachers and leaders in this area.

Table 9 - Do you consider that the lower increase to M1 in London and the Fringe area will have a negative impact over the longer term?
Yes 7 responses (9%)
No 6 responses (7%)
Don’t know 10 responses (13%)
N/A – not a London/Fringe area employer 56 responses (70%)
Left Blank 1 response (1%)


Future STRB remits - Other proposed changes to draft STPCD

36. The NEOST position remains that next year’s remit should prioritise a review of enabling Upper Pay Range (UPR) teachers to voluntarily move back to the Main Pay Range (MPR) within their existing school as well as a review of the leadership pay range and salary safeguarding arrangements.

37. NEOST therefore invites DfE to enter into discussions with us in order to inform the prioritisation of the above reviews (movement from UPR to MPR pay safeguarding and UPR responsibilities) and to be actively involved in early discussions involving careful consideration of the phasing and timing of any agreed reviews. NEOST accepts that this change would be controversial with teaching trade unions. However, our stakeholders are very clear that a significant number of teachers request to move from UPR to MPR for numerous reasons, including as part of their retirement plan or well-being and currently, even if employers wanted to agree to the teacher’s request, they are legally unable to as a result of the current STPCD regulations. To that end, we remain committed to exploring ways to allay concerns to reach a consensus on this issue.

38. Any agreed future reforms/changes are likely to involve system-wide changes that local authorities and all school employers will need adequate time to plan, cost, consult and implement any proposed new arrangements, so we ask that this is a factor in any future remit timescales.

Consultation process and timings

39. This year, the STRB report and draft STPCD consultation were again published late in July, when the vast majority of schools were in the final days of the end of the school year or had already closed. The consultation period was helpfully extended, but it was still over the summer holiday period. This makes it particularly challenging for schools in terms of their ability to plan and respond. We are grateful for the efforts of our stakeholders in dealing with our consultation during this period.

40. Our stakeholders continue to raise serious concerns about the very late announcement of the proposed pay award and the negative impact it has on the school governing bodies and trustees, as well as school staff who are responsible for the financial budgeting of schools, which is already a highly complex and time-bound process.  

41. To help illustrate the point, we set out here the usual steps schools take. A school’s budget is likely to take many months and iterations prior to approval. This may include curriculum design and amendments and then staffing the curriculum needs. Decisions on teacher appointments in any one year for the start of the academic year (September) are likely to need to be made prior to the budget being approved due to appointments taking at least 3 months to conclude. LAs are required to publish schemes, including any revisions for financing schools, setting out the financial relationship between them and the schools they maintain. Each school must submit a three-year budget forecast each year at a date determined by the local authority between 1 May and 30 June. The academy's financial year starts in September, but the timing of staffing changes means that the budget-setting period is very similar. ATs must submit their three-year budget forecast to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in July. The budget must be approved by its Board of Trustees prior to ESFA submission, and the ATs must be able to demonstrate that it is a “going concern”.

42. It should also be noted that the current process and timescale impact negatively on the application of the DfE guidance on the appraisal process within schools. Governing bodies must consult representatives of recognised trade unions before finalising their own revised pay policy/pay structure ahead of setting appraisal objectives. This last-minute approach places immense pressure on governing bodies, school leaders and other staff to agree to new policies and then meet the best practice deadline of the 31st of October each year.  

43. NEOST reminds policymakers that the teachers’ pay award has a statutory effective date of 1st September - aligned with the start of the school academic year. It is essential for employers to budget, plan and utilise their flexibilities to set effective workforce development programmes to align with organisational priorities and affordability. LAs and all school employers have informed us of the difficulties they experience reviewing their pay policies in a managed and timely fashion as a result of the delayed consultation and final STPCD.  

44. Therefore, NEOST calls for a return to an effective consultation process which takes account of prudent financial budgeting and reporting requirements, allowing for planning and school closure periods.

Reported errors in the draft STPCD 2023 published in July 2023

45. We raised pay value discrepancies with DfE officials between:

  • The value of the maximum salary (M6) in the main body of the STPCD and the M6 figures recorded in the advisory pay points Annexe 3 of the draft STPCD 2023 for the London pay ranges.
  • The value of the minimum salary level of the Upper Pay Range in the main body of the STPCD and the minimum value recorded in the advisory pay points referenced in Annexe 3 of the draft STPCD 2023.

46. We thank the DfE for correcting the errors we highlighted and for re-issuing the corrected draft STPCD 2023 in August to all statutory consultees.