NQTs and young teachers tend to say "I love the job, but the money's dreadful", implying that they could be earning much more. My PGCE finishes on my upcoming 50th birthday. When I take up my first post, I shall be earning (relatively) more than in any of my previous jobs. I shall also be earning more than my sister, a nurse for 24 years. I shall gain points for having an MA and several years' experience as a university teacher.
Young teachers earn a great deal more than many of their graduate contemporaries. Everyone should be paid enough to live decently, but it seems as if graduates are encouraged to have unrealistic expectations. As young, single professionals, my friends and I lived with our parents or shared rented flats. Large salaries were, and are, paid to a minority.
At my local FE college, some graduate administrators work a 38-hour week for around pound;10,000 a year. Starting salaries for university and FE lecturers - assuming they can get a permanent conract - are far lower than for teachers. In the longer term, teachers fare better than their graduate contemporaries in the NHS, the civil service or local government, who, at 50, will probably be earning less than if they had been a teacher for 30 years.
Unrealistic ideas about what everyone else is earning will give beginning teachers a sense of being hard done by before they even start. Around pound;17,000 is not a bad starting salary for a job with built-in increments and decent holidays. The deterrent is the time-consuming, non-teaching bureaucracy that erodes enthusiasm and energy. More administrative support could reduce the incidence and expense of stress-related teacher absence, and encourage more quality entrants.
But if you still think pound;17,000 is a low starting salary for a qualified professional, try talking to a nurse.
Ann Corry is a secondary English PGCE student at Canterbury Christchurch University College. She taught for five years at Kingston University and has worked as an adult and FE lecturer