Are teachers paid enough?

One of the last remaining taboo subjects, if not the single most contentious discussion points in working life, is that we never seem to speak openly about our salaries with our colleagues, friends or even our immediate families. Whatever your personal feelings on this topic, one important question needs to be addressed; are teachers being paid enough?

Performance-related pay

In the not so distant past, teachers’ salaries were linked to structured pay scales with automatic increases as they progressed through their careers. However, with the introduction of performance-related pay (PRP) in 2013, schools were given the power to decide whether individual teachers should progress based on their performance. No doubt this policy was brought in to try and push through improvements in schools, although teachers are questioning the merits of the policy and beginning to wonder if it was merely a tactic to reduce expenditure within schools.

Huge risks

A recent survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) found that one in 12 teachers had been denied a salary increase since performance-related pay was introduced. Nearly half of teachers think their school’s pay policy is unfair, regardless of whether they have received an increase or not. The impact of this on motivation levels in the profession could be significant, with Christine Blower, the former NUT general secretary, saying: ‘the biggest risk of all is that by removing the right to pay progression and making pay prospects so uncertain, the government is going to make the teacher recruitment crises worse.’

Recognition and rewards

Teaching isn’t an easy vocation and should be rewarded accordingly. As rumblings about a funding crisis in schools grows louder and concerns over teachers’ workloads increase, the pressures on the teaching profession are set to get worse. Teachers are vital for the future of our country, contributing a lot more to the fabric of everyday life than they get credit for. The profession possibly has an identity crisis, and needs to be seen as a more attractive option that ranks up there with the most respected jobs in the country.

We don’t want or expect people coming to work in classrooms solely due to the financial rewards available, although we need to accept that financial benefits ensure stability, acting not only as a key reason to join the profession but also offering an effective reason to stay. However, financial incentives are only part of the picture, with one teacher suggesting that she ‘wouldn’t go to work in a school where the culture isn’t right, just because they pay a bit more money. So it would be low down on a list of factors that would influence me.’

Take home pay

According to a report released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which looked at the state of education around the world. Teachers pay in the UK compares favourably to salaries available around the world. The average starting salary of teachers in England is relatively modest at £22,000 but after 10 years’ service this rises on average to above £35,000. Whereas across the Channel, starting salaries in France are marginally higher, but after 10 years are significantly lower falling within the range of £26,000 – £28,000.

Times are hard

The picture in reality is not that pretty, with one of the researchers observing that ‘England and Scotland are among the third of countries where salaries of teachers consistently decreased in real terms between 2010 and 2014′. This view was shared by the School Teachers Review Body (STRB), who warned that ‘the relative position of teachers’ earnings has deteriorated further this year and continue to trail those of other professional occupations in most regions’. The review group put forward recommendations of a mere 1% increase in teacher pay from September this year, but suggested that far higher increases would be needed in the future. ‘The value of their incomes isn’t keeping pace with the cost of living’ says Andrew Morris, head of pay at the National Union of Teachers, ‘or with salaries elsewhere.’

Being left behind

At a time when we need to attract more teachers in to the classroom, the salaries available to NQTs are a lot lower than other careers available to graduates. The OECD found teacher salaries were 10-16% lower than starting salaries of other entry level graduate jobs. In order to remain more competitive and offer a more attractive proposition for new teachers, schools need to try and find extra money from somewhere. But with squeezes being placed on already stretched school budgets, they’re finding that they are struggling to compete. Sara Ford, a pay and employment specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, says that there is ‘a real need for pay to go up because you’re competing in a graduate market and we’re falling behind. But we can’t afford to because schools budgets are diminishing.’

Looking forward

The issue of pay is already causing teachers to leave the profession, citing workloads and salaries as the main reasons for their departure from the classroom. To offer the best education we need to ensure that there’s a suitable pool of qualified teachers who possess the necessary skills to guide students towards reaching their potential. Since the abandonment of the national pay system for teachers with fixed pay scale points, schools are now able to choose what to pay their teachers. A lot of schools are still following the same pay structure as before, but with further funding constraints there could be large regional variations between pay leading to noticeable disparities between teachers doing effectively the same jobs.  This could lead to big problems for teachers, and Morris concludes that ‘while schools continue to have their funding restricted, the temptation will be to pay teachers less.’

Let us have your thoughts

Everyone must recognise the importance of having a highly motivated workforce of teachers in classrooms. What are your experiences and views on the current state of pay and conditions in schools? Do you believe teachers are paid enough? What suggestions do you have to improve salaries within the existing financial constraints? We’d love to see your thoughts below…

14 thoughts on “Are teachers paid enough?

  1. I have been on the same pay point (M6) for 5 years. At my previous school I had 2 children within 4 years and was denied moving into the Upper Pay Scale due to maternity leave. The form I would need to compete to do this was “very time consuming to complete” as the then headteacher told me.
    I have now been teaching 10 years and I am on pay point M6.
    I changed schools last year and I am just waiting to find out if I will be moving on to UPS 1 this year.

  2. I qualified in 1994 and accumulated considerable experience teaching in the UK in both the state and private sectors as well as over 5 years teaching abroad in international schools. I decided to return to state education in this country in September but my salary was due to be the same as I was earning 10 years previously! Fortunately I was offered a post in Norway with far better working conditions; a much higher standard of living and a better salary with additional benefits. Clearly to attract people like myself back to the UK something needs to be done with regards to the pay structure so that we can achieve the same standard of living as we do when teaching abroad.

  3. The truth of teachers’ appalling pay was recently brought home in a very stark manner. My daughter (a new graduate) just started work (for the NHS, as a newly-trained, but junior, professional). On her first day, I asked her how much she was paid. She said: “£17 per hour”, so, for an 8-hour day, that’s £136 per day. I, then, asked her how many patients she saw, and she said: “about five or six” – I told her I saw classes of 30+ every 50 minutes, i.e. over 180 people per day!! I told her she was being paid more than I was after 36 years of full timetable teaching, and I’m at the TOP of my scale!!! Disgusting treatment of teachers. Performance related pay has NOT worked (we knew it wouldn’t, didn’t we?), it’s a hammer to knock (and keep) DOWN teachers’ pay. 1% rise doesn’t buy a cup of coffee per day!!!

  4. Having started as a TA in my school I rose to level 3 and a decent salary. However when I became a qualified teacher my school had to add a bolt on to my teacher salary to ensure I didn’t lose money. This bolt on will reduce each time I get a pay increase (if I do) meaning my salary is set to stay the same for years. The school keep saying it’s better for me as wouldn’t have the same career prospects as a TA. I’m wondering if career prospects are worth the additional time, stress and energy and the impact it has on my ‘life’. I’m lead of faculty, manage a team and am SENCo. Doesn’t leave me much time for living

  5. Most new teachers will not be paid enough to pay off the loan to study for the degree that is a compulsory requirement for teaching. The top of the salary scale for police constables is almost the same as upper pay range point 3.

  6. I am a computer science NQT. Single mum of 3. My wages do not cover my bills. I rely on tax credits to pay for my fuel to get to work, food for my kids and other essentials. We don’t have sky TV I don’t smoke etc and am not frivolous. I earned more with the bursary last year and considering the hours I do, with 8 controlled assessment classes to mark by Christmas it’s ridiculous. I am doubtful I will stay in the profession once my year contract it up. Which is a massive loss as I love teaching, am good at teaching and the kids feed off my passion for computing.

  7. Performance related pay is a farce. Teachers at my school (A recent academy conversion) have not had pay rises even when they clearly have achieved and exceeded their targets. The last 1% pay rise has not been awarded whilst we appoint more executive vice principles on high salaries and non classroom staff. The best teachers are leaving and looking for new posts only to be replaced with HLTA’s level 3 or NQT’s and management wonder why they can’t recruit teachers.

  8. Salaries are low considering the workload and the number of hours teachers spend working. Hardly any time for lunch , classes with 30 students, getting home at 5 or 6 p.m with lots of notebooks to mark…I work ten or twelve hours a day (is it even legal? It certainly is pre-Industrial Revolution)
    I get paid 1300 and must pay 600 or 700 to rent a ROOM, not even a proper house with my own kitchen or bathroom. It’s a student’s life with the responsibilities of a worker . It is close to slavery .No wonder people leave the job. I will the moment I find an 8-hour -a day job which is properly paid and does not come home with me.

  9. I have been teaching for over ten years and my salary has pretty much stayed the same, unlike my workload which can result in a 12 or 14 hour shift 3 or 4 times a week.
    I’m currently on maternity with my 2nd child and I’m seriously thinking of having a career change as I don’t want to miss out on my child’s milestones like I did with my first. Teaching for me is no longer family friendly and you feel guilty if you’re spending precious time with your own children whilst the marking sits in a corner and vise-versa.
    Teaching needs to be made family friendly again and salaries need to be increased to coincide with the 12 or 14 hours often spent daily to ensure students are reaching their full potential. It takes a special someone to be a teacher , but too many good teachers are walking away from a profession they’re passionate about but feel they have no choice because the salary adoesnd job description does not fit the role they are required to fulfil.

  10. Performance related pay for teachers is a lie.
    It’s a big fat, stinking, treacherous lie.
    Most teachers are made to jump through hoops every year and coerced to accept targets that have absolute sweet nothing to do with professional progression and even less to do with either childrens’ wellbeing or pedagogy. What happens if you hit those targets? Nothing. Nothing at all. Pay is rarely if ever increased, for anyone, anywhere, ever.
    I’ve experienced it first hand since its introduction. I’ve met every damned target and more for more than a decade. My gross pay has remained the same since 2008 to the penny. My take home pay has decreased due to increases in pension contributions.
    I am undervalued for the role I play in preparing the next generation for the new century. My nation does not pay me half what I’m worth. I get no share in the economic output I directly contribute to by making it’s workforce competent. In short, United Kingdom, you are selling me and every other teacher in this nation short. You are selling us a lie.

  11. Whilst teachers continue to accept pay that is below their belief in their worth little will change. Teachers who believe they have achieved what is required for pay progession need to involve their trade union if they are unhappy with the response of management. The alternative is very simple – teachers should seek employment in an alternative school or leave the profession.

    Some time ago my post was made redundant and I was offered a head of department post, which had been downgraded to a lower salary scale to save money. I left the post very quickly and sought a HOD post at what I saw as the appropriate grade (i.e. what my predecessor was paid).

    At my last school I noticed that economies were being made at the expense of staff. The reasons were simple. The 1,000 pupil school had the same number of senior staff as my previous 2,000 pupil school. This was a failure both by the Headmaster and by the Chairman of the Board. In addition classes of 3-6 were common in an unviable sixth form.

    Unfortunately, whilst inflation remains at very low levels pay increases will as well.

  12. Came into teaching 16 years ago after 10 years at home raising a family. Previously worked in Human Resources and had left on a salary of 17k- circa 1994. Moved through the teacher pay grades quickly enough and took on a vast number of additional responsibilities but for the past 6 years I have been told that although I have always reached my targets I will never get the next mgt point because our school is not big enough!! Now , I know I could leave but my school is 10 minutes from home so I made a conscious decision to 1. Hand back all additional responsibilities, 2. Go part time.
    It is the best decision I’ve ever made but I was able to do so because my partner’s salary picks up the slack.
    We laugh at performance related pay in our school- as we say , we reach all targets but get nothing in return and there is no company car to have taken away if we don’t reach the targets either! If I was a young teacher I would lea

  13. The pay is, and has been a joke for years, yet many teachers will say “It’s not that bad!” Part of the problem is that teachers unions have not fought for us. Added to this is that MANY teachers do NOT join and support a union. Teachers by and large do not stand together and fight for what they feel they deserve. They moan, but do nothing about it. The last time the NUT went on strike the turn out was pathetic. If you want change you have to take responsibility and get out there and fight for it, not expect it to just be given to you. Teachers have stopped demanding respect on any front. We have become “the enemy” ( of OFSTED, parents who blame us for everything, and children who don’t want to learn in the current educational culture) We have allowed this to happen. Many teachers feel battered, depressed and lack self esteem; and yet they stay in the “profession”. NO Other profession has been so denigrated. My personal take on pay is this; this is how much you pay me, this is what I am prepared to do for it. I will not be anyone’s “glorious dead”. Worked all hours, constantly striving to meet unrealistic targets,that when met are not rewarded, while the Heads pins medals on themselves for “improving the school”. Sorry I think it’s the class teachers doing the improving! Take control back. Walk out after an 8-9 hour day and do not take work home. You are ENTITLED to a work/life balance. Claim it! As the old saying goes “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” Be a monkey! Ha ha ha ha !

  14. I totally agree with the comments and sentiments of the previous contributors. I worked for my last 21 years in a residential SEBDA school. Class sizes were small but I was also part of the SLT and as such, did a sleep over. My shift on a Tuesday morning started at 8 a.m. and I finished on Wednesday at 4 p.m. That’s 32 hours in that I was responsible in school and teaching, duty managing and being senior on sleep over with overall control for the school. Often when children absconded, I’d be up till 2-3 in the morning liasioning with police, emergency duty teams, parents ( uncontactable) then teach the next day.
    The head, rose coloured glasses always commented on how well he was doing. Big big pat on the back, everyone else had the hoops to jump through. I took early retirement, mainly due to this person. Now the latest Ofsted inspection has “requires improvement” across the whole spectrum of school. However, CQC inspection rated school “outstanding ” in all areas.
    What was the best part of teaching? Leaving and handing in my notice on the very last day I could (end of May) to the head who I’d come to despise in every respect. The look on his face to me? Priceless!!!

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