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Heads face pay cap

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 9 July, 2010 | By: Irena Barker

Salaries to be pegged to PM’s in public sector spending battle

The government is planning to cap headteachers’ pay to the £142,500 salary of the Prime Minister, The TES can reveal.

Education Secretary Michael Gove’s clampdown on senior wages comes only weeks after the announcement of a two-year public sector pay freeze brought the spectre of teachers’ strikes onto the horizon.

The cap would end a period of rapid growth in headteacher pay, prompted by the expansion of the academies programme and the numbers of executive heads running more than one school.

Around 100 heads are thought to be earning in excess of £150,000, with a handful believed to be receiving as much as £180,000. In academies, headteacher jobs paying six-figure salaries and performance bonuses have become the norm, even outside London.

But Mr Gove wants to bring heads’ pay into a wider drive to push down large public sector pay packets.

In a letter to Anne Wright, chair of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), which advises the Government on pay, Mr Gove said he wanted to consult on his view that “salary should not exceed that of the Prime Minister”. The plan is for the cap to be imposed on new pay deals as early as this September.

The STRB does not cover academies, but the Government is investigating ways to impose the cap on academies as well to prevent a two-tier system. Unions say it is “at odds” with Mr Gove’s desire to give schools greater flexibility over teachers’ pay.

Currently, the top of the pay scale in the largest London state schools is supposed to be set at £109,658. But the law effectively allows governors in the largest schools to offer whatever pay they need to in order to attract the right candidates.

Jacqueline Valin, executive head teacher of Southfields Community College, an “outstanding” comprehensive in south London bidding for academy status, said recruitment would be badly affected if pay was limited to £142,500.

“Governors need the freedom to go into the marketplace and attract the best person,” she said. “Recruiting is extremely difficult, as has been proven time and again.”

One highly paid head of an east London comprehensive of 1,700 pupils, who asked not to be named, said: “Headteachers who are earning that much or more have a lot of experience, have system-wide responsibilities across groups of schools and a track record of achievement, so to put any official limit on their salaries is counterproductive.”

Malcolm Trobe, policy director at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “No one disputes the fact there’s a level above which the responsibility of a headteacher won’t merit a salary above a certain level, but it should be decided by a pay review body, not an arbitrary figure such as the PM’s salary.”

Despite pressure from unions, no figures are currently published on how many heads earn more than the top of the pay scale.

As reported in The TES last week, heads are also being excluded from the fair pay review, commissioned by the Government, which will investigate pay scales across the public sector.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “The Chancellor is clear that the country is living beyond its means; that the entire public sector must share the burden of dealing with the growing national debt; and that if we don’t tackle pay and pensions, more jobs will be lost.”

He said that while academies are in general free to set their own staff pay, “we feel there is a strong case for ensuring no principal of an individual academy earns more than the Prime Minister and are speaking to academy representatives to agree how best to give this effect”.

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Comment (5)

  • He said that while academies are in general free to set their own staff pay, “we feel there is a strong case for ensuring no principal of an individual academy earns more than the Prime Minister and are speaking to academy representatives to agree how best to give this effect”.

    I'm puzzled - on the one hand, the govt wants schools to become academies - the key advantage of which is freedom to do what you like about teachers' (including the head) salaries. They've made a great deal of this. On the other hand, 'Ooh, we don't like it and want to find a way of pegging these salaries'. Whilst I believe it to be wrong for any head (or any other public sector employee) to be paid more than the PM, the hypocrisy involved in this latest move is breathtaking.

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    9 July, 2010


  • £142,500 plus approx £60,000 MPs salary for Mr Cameron-surely some extra
    payments can and will be fiddled for academy heads?

    £142,500 divided by 20 - for lowest salary earner in a school = £7,125 (about right)- still complies with Cameron's hypocritical 1/20 rule.

    What about the bankers?

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    9 July, 2010


  • Interesting that Jacqueline Vain seeks to defend headteachers' pay. According to the figures I have, she is paid just under £200,000 and received a pay increase of 11.6% last year. Interesting also that her school (a foundation school) is one where BSF hasn't just been cut.

    There is so much sleeze around at the moment it makes me ashamed to admit that I was ever a teacher.

    This is the biggest argument for cutting salaries at the top. Let those who will only do the job for inflated pay go elsewhere and let those who have commitment and a public service ethos (there are many around) replace them. This would probably reduce the level of bullying in the system and, perhaps, reduce the fiddling which goes on to try to improve status in the league tables.

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    9 July, 2010


  • Oh Yes! If anyone thinks for a second that academies are going to have all the freedoms that Mr Gove speaks of in this initial "hard sell! to get schools to sign up - think again. It's called divide and conquer, the clampdown has started already, heads pay and "find a way to control it" When all schools have given up their rights, you all have local contracts with your head and chair, the unions will find this situation virtually impossible to police on an individual basis we will have the birth of privatised education. It will be very easy for DfE to put pressure on individual heads, and there will be no mitigation from the local authority because it simply will not exist.

    Remember – Academies = your contract is owned by the school, this means if they want to cut your pay, lengthen your day or bring you in during the holidays (if there have not already paired them back already) tamper with your pension ! They can.

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    11 July, 2010



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    13 July, 2010


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