Even heads are unhappy with pay rise, poll finds

Broad discontent shows salary reforms have `failed', critics argue

Stephen Exley & William Stewart

Almost half of headteachers are dissatisfied with their latest pay rise and just 16 per cent of classroom teachers are content with the increase they have received this year, TES can reveal.

A survey of more than 800 staff indicates widespread unhappiness with pay deals, despite the introduction this year of radical performance-related pay reforms that were supposed to allow schools to "reward their best".

The figures show that 47 per cent of headteachers feel they received an unsatisfactory pay rise in September; just 26 per cent are happy. Almost a quarter have still not been informed of what their pay will be.

The discontent exists among headteachers even though the number earning pound;100,000 or more rose to 900 this year, up more than a quarter since 2012. A headteachers' leader claims that rising workload has triggered the malaise.

Classroom teachers, meanwhile, are also unhappy with their pay rises. Just 16 per cent have received a satisfactory deal, according to the poll carried out exclusively for TES by YouGov, while 32 per cent are unsatisfied.

Almost 40 per cent of teachers have not been given a final decision on their pay rise, even though the vast majority of deals were supposed to be concluded by the start of the school year in September.

Emma Hardy, a teacher at Willerby Carr Lane Primary School in Hull and vice-president of the East Riding branch of the NUT teaching union, said the figures showed that the new pay policy had "failed". The idea that schools would reward high-performing staff had proved to be "hollow and meaningless", she added.

School leaders have warned of confusion over the impact of the pay reforms, introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove, which were intended to link classroom teachers' pay more closely to their performance.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has claimed that 85 per cent of schools continue to use the spine points on the main pay scale, despite the fact that they have officially been scrapped.

"Very few schools have used the flexibilities that they now have," ASCL pay specialist Sara Ford told a Westminster Education Forum event. "Of the 15 per cent that are using new flexibilities.they have done that for budget reasons, rather than to use flexibility to reward greater performance."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, also said that the "vast majority" of schools were still using the old national pay framework.

"I think the government was hoping for a much more radical departure from the pay framework, but I think that was entirely the wrong thing to hope for," he said. "Where is the value in fiddling around with the grading and scaling structure? What benefits do you get in terms of education?"

Mr Hobby added that the public sector pay restraint imposed by the government was also a factor in teachers' unhappiness. "After two years of pay freezes, we have had two years of 1 per cent increases, which are well below the rate of inflation," he said. "At the same time, the workload and demands on school leaders have been growing."

Chancellor George Osborne signalled at least four more years of pay restraint for teachers and other public sector workers in his Autumn Statement this week.

Richard Sheriff, headteacher of Harrogate Grammar School in North Yorkshire, said he would not want to act like a football manager offering a lucrative salary to a star striker, even if he had the money to. "We haven't got, luckily, a [Mario] Balotelli [the controversial Liverpool player] within our staff," he said. "We have got 120 teachers. We need a team structure that allows them all to perform well.

"If you get one prima donna who thinks they're marvellous it is really not going to make a difference to student outcomes, however great they think they are or I think they are. By paying one person so much more than the others, all you do is create discontent and a very big wage bill that you can't afford to pay."

Increases in headteachers' pay have largely been fuelled by the growth of academies, which are free to set their own pay rates for staff. Many have attempted to attract top-quality headteachers with high salaries.

In 2012, a report by the National Audit Office found that one in 10 secondary academy headteachers was paid more than the maximum permitted for non-academy school leaders in their region (bit.lyAcademyPay). But in non-academies, headteachers' salaries are generally tied to the number of pupils, limiting the pay on offer for those working in small primary schools.

"The average headteacher's salary is pound;56,000," Mr Hobby said. "There are 1,000 heads earning less than pound;50,000. Given the level of responsibility they have to cope with, which is only getting higher, that's not astronomical."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "All schools are required to set out clearly how their teachers' pay is linked to performance and there is no evidence to suggest there are any schools that have not done this. Any school without an appropriate policy in place will be held to account by Ofsted."

`There's so much pressure'

Tony Draper, headteacher of Water Hall Primary School in Milton Keynes, believes that restrictive rules mean some high-performing headteachers at the top of the pay scale are losing out.

"If you're doing an exceptional job year after year and you've reached the top of your pay scale, your governing body may well find it impossible to increase your pay," he says.

"There's so much pressure on school leaders. It's very easy for one year's results to drop and bring everything crashing down. It's not the stable job it used to be."

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Stephen Exley & William Stewart

Latest stories

Arts squeeze out

Why arts subjects were hit so hard in the pandemic

Recent data from the ONS revealed surprising insights into how badly hit arts subjects were by the pandemic - and how hard the return to school has been too, as James O'Malley investigates
James O'Malley 25 Oct 2021