How much will I get paid at an independent school?

Ah, good question! How long is a piece of string? Independent schools will pay you as much - or as little - as they want to and can afford to. And with one laudable exception (more about that at the end), most of them do not advertise their scales or even tell you what their pay is. Not even when you are applying for a job there. Frustrating, eh?

If the school is a member of one of the Big Gun recognised organisations – HMC, IAPS, GSA, SHMIS – you should expect pay and conditions to be at least as good as in the maintained sector.  In smaller schools, this may not be so. Most of what I have to say below refers to those who are paying at least as much as the state schools, not the smaller, more financially precarious schools, who may pay less because they cannot afford to match state salaries. 

There are 3 elements, perhaps four, when considering independent pay. Firstly the basic payscale - if it exists - or at least the basic salary range. What does a NQT get, what does someone get after 6 years?  For medium to big schools it will normally be a bit more than state. Note the “normally” - I’m putting that in all the way through because there are no hard-and-fast rules. In the very top, high-fee, schools, this can be a considerable bit extra.

Secondly, the extended pay, the equivalent of the post-Threshold UPS. Does it exist, how much is it, how hard is it to get it - do you have to jump through hoops? For medium to big schools, there will normally be a generous extended pay scale, often going up to £40k or beyond, and normally no hoops to jump through so you move onto it automatically, although progression right up to the top may involve some assessment.  This means that an ordinary classroom teacher (by “ordinary” I mean one with no administrative responsibilities) can earn a nice whack, without going through the aggro of having to produce all that Threshold paperwork.

Thirdly, the extra money paid for responsibilities. There’s no such thing as TLRs, but people can often be paid a little bit extra here and a little bit extra there for often quite minor responsibilities, apart from the big bit extra for established roles. In my school, for example, 70% of staff were earning something on top, either a big chunk for a large responsibility, being eg a Head of Department or Year, or a smaller amount for coordinating some aspect of school life. In boarding schools these extra amounts paid can be quite substantial.

Do remember that all this extra money, whether from the basic pay, the extended pay, or the responsibility allowances, will also add to your pension when you retire.

Finally, the financial advantages on top. Free lunches and coffee are pretty standard (although someone is now bound to post to say that their school charges them!). In Boarding schools, you may get most meals thrown in during term time, and free or subsidised accommodation (including houses, so your family can live there), which can allow you to rent out your own home. Subsidised fees for your own children - ranging from 15% to 100% - are another perk. Schools may also offer free or subsidised health insurance, free “well-being” services, interest-free loans for season tickets or computers (and some schools provide free laptops for staff), and other benefits.

But it’s not all jam for nothing, you are expected to work hard in an independent school.

As an example of the very best pay conditions (you won’t get this everywhere by any means!), here is an extract from job details for a post at a top boys’ boarding school, start date September 2009; I have anonymised it.

“There are XX full-time members of the academic staff, virtually all of whom live rent-free in school property in XXX.  Water Rates and Council Tax are paid by the School. The School has its own salary scale with generous additional benefits including private medical insurance. Staff educate sons at XX at a reduced rate.   

Academic staff are eligible for an allowance towards the cost of educating their sons and daughters. Teachers are allocated an ‘educational fund’ for each child which can be drawn down in accordance with the regulations of the Scheme between ages 4 and 18. For 2008-09 the initial total value, prior to any drawdown, of each educational fund is £116,490 for a son and £58,245 for a daughter. The educational funds are not currently means-tested but regulations may make this necessary in the future. Further details of the scheme may be obtained from the Bursar.

Housing in XXX is expensive and staff work late, so you are given a rent-free house or flat within a few minutes walk from your classroom. A figure for the notional rental value of your property is added to your salary for the purposes of pension calculations; in other words, the fact that you are given a school house is used to enhance your pension.

Housing is allocated by the Head Master. Properties are maintained by the school Works Department. Staff are encouraged to buy their own house elsewhere, either to live in during the holidays or to rent out as a source of additional income.”

The exception to the “silence is golden” rule about salaries is the Girls’ Day School Trust. This is not an advertisement for them, merely a way for you to see some actual salaries paid. 

Below is an extract from the Girls’ Day School Trust website, including a link to their pay leaflet.

Teachers’ salaries and pay scales - Girls’ Day Schools Trust 

“The GDST teachers’ pay structure is similar to that within the maintained sector, however in the maintained sector scale points are regarded as the minimum, as opposed to the GDST system that sees a greater differential and more opportunity for pay progression.

All our teachers are able to progress to the equivalent of U1 (beyond the threshold) without the need for formal performance assessment, and there is an extended discretionary pay scale above that. In fact, more than 55% of our teachers are already on the extended scale.

Details of our current teachers’ pay scales are set out in the separate teachers’ pay leaflet. Additional financial incentives are offered to London-based staff and may also be available for shortage subject teachers.”

To sum up: there is rarely any way of finding out what you are likely to be earning until they actually offer you the job.


Read more on independent schools

Guide to independent schools

FAQ independent sector