State school teachers may already look on with envy at the working lives of their independent school colleagues: the small classes, well- behaved pupils and top-notch facilities.
But now there is another reason: pay. While state school teachers are enduring the second year of a pay freeze, for the majority of those in the private sector salaries went up this academic year, research has revealed.
Around six in 10 teachers working in independent schools received a pay rise in September to help them meet that month's inflation figure of 2.2 per cent, according to a poll by the ATL education union.
Some of the increases were inflation busters at up to 4 per cent, although most received rises of between 1 and 2 per cent. Forty of the nearly 1,500 respondents to the ATL poll said that they had received a pay cut.
The news that most private school teachers received a rise is likely to rankle with state school staff, who will not receive any increase until at least next September, when a two-year 1 per cent pay cap for public sector workers is due to be introduced. Pay is already one of the key issues fuelling the industrial action currently being staged by the two largest classroom unions, the NUT and the NASUWT.
Private schools generally follow the same national pay scales used to determine salaries in state schools. Any rises awarded this year could create a permanent divide between the sectors.
The news comes as many private schools continue to feel the effects of the recession, although schools in the North of England have suffered more from falling pupil numbers than those in London and the South East, where numbers have remained intact, according to figures from the Independent Schools Council.
Tim Hands, next year's chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference group of elite private schools and head of Magdalen College School in Oxford, said pay rises were partly fuelled by the expectations of parents.
"Parents see that their child is being helped outside the classroom and their child is happy. That is why they want to see the teacher rewarded," he said. "Parents are very appreciative."
His own teachers and non-teaching staff were awarded a rise of 1 per cent this year, a figure that reflects continuing uncertainty about the potential effects of the recession on fee-paying parents. He said that his and many other schools also gave benefits in kind to staff, such as private health schemes and sabbaticals.
ATL general secretary Mary Bousted stressed that independent schools should not use the global financial crisis as an excuse to withhold pay rises.
"Despite the recession, many independent schools are in rude health and growing, with higher numbers of pupils," she said. "Where schools are thriving it is primarily due to their staff, so it is only right and proper that they share in the school's success and are rewarded properly for the dedicated work they put in. We call on all independent schools to reward their staff fairly."
The union has also expressed concerns that schools are putting up fees but prioritising top-class facilities such as sports pavilions and swimming pools over pay increases for teachers.
Teachers in the independent sector may be paying the price for their modest pay rises, research by the ATL education union has revealed.
The poll revealed that three-quarters of full-time staff were working on average more than 48 hours a week. Nearly a quarter of full-timers said they do 60 hours a week during term time.
One teacher at a Dorset secondary school reported working 100 hours a week or more. Another teacher said they worked 10 hours with just one 10-minute break.
Another reported that they had worked for eight weeks with only one day off.
Photo credit: Kobal
Original headline: A pay freeze, you say? We've had none of that here