Stephen Twigg backs ‘local pay’ for teachers while also opposing ‘local pay’. Very even-handed

by Stephen Tall on October 4, 2012

Of course he didn’t use the phrase ‘local pay’ because Labour, like the Lib Dems, are opposed to it. But local pay is what Stephen Twigg today announced in his education speech to the party’s Manchester conference:

We will have a New Deal for Teachers. … Teachers need to be rewarded appropriately so we can attract the best candidates, especially in subjects like maths, sciences and IT which are harder to recruit. … I want to look at ideas like helping pay back your tuition fees, if you go to teach in a poorer area. Something for something.

Stephen Twigg’s meaning could not be clearer — he’ll back financial incentives if they are needed to recruit teachers to work in challenging areas. If that’s not local pay, I’m not sure what is. And he is, by the way, entirely right. As I wrote back in March in an article which earned me few friends in the Lib Dems:

Unsurprisingly, recruitment and retention rates in the most deprived parts of the country are well below those of the more affluent. Under normal market conditions, this would be reflected in the pay and conditions: tougher work would be better rewarded. In this country, we hope that our public sector ethos will somehow make up the difference, that there will be enough local heroes willing to undertake more demanding jobs for no extra remuneration. The evidence shows that such hope is as forlorn in reality as it sounds in theory.

Officially the Lib Dems cleave to our illiberal policy of centrally-set national pay-rates. The party re-affirmed its conservative stance at last week’s party conference. The reality is less clear-cut. The Coalition Agreement said government would ‘reform the existing rigid national pay and conditions rules to give schools greater freedoms to pay good teachers more’. And the Lib Dems do support London weighting, a very partial form of local pay.

So Stephen Twigg’s backing for local pay evens things up a bit. Now both Labour and the Lib Dems support local pay while simultaneously opposing it. That’s what I call balanced politics.