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It pays to be in the know

Advice for teachers in their early career

It's a good time of year to make sure you understand how your pay works.

Most people start at a point called M1 on the salary scale and, after six years, will be at the top of the scale, M6, but it's essential to negotiate a fair starting point when you get your first job because you can start higher up the scale in recognition of "relevant" experience.

Once awarded, experience points can't be taken away even if you move schools, but you have got to be proactive about asking. One 46-year-old mother of four with 20 years of rich experience as a nursery nurse and a first class BEd assumed that the school would automatically pay her more, but they didn't. She started on M1, the same as a 22-year-old straight from college.

People on the main pay scale move up a point every year in September.

Part-time and temporary teachers also go up a point as long as they've been employed for at least 26 weeks.

There are four separate scales depending on whether you work in inner, outer or the fringe of London, or elsewhere in England and Wales. (London weighting is no more.) Of the 33 London boroughs, the ones that border a county get outer-London pay; all the others receive inner-London pay. Fringe money comes if you work in counties bordering London. So, if you're looking north of London, most of Hertfordshire is classed as England and Wales, but in parts of it, such as Welwyn and Hatfield, you'll get fringe pay; Barnet, Enfield and Harrow are in outer London; and Camden and Brent are classed as inner London. There's nearly pound;4,000 difference between the areas so it pays to be strategic. Ealing, Haringey and Merton are classed as inner London even though they're not in the inner ring. It's hard to find easy rules about fringe payments, so the best thing to do is to contact the local education authority or local union branches.

There's a heap of confusion about the repayment of teacher loans. It's a fantastic deal for people who teach maths, science, modern languages, English (including drama), Welsh, design and technology, or ICT for at least half of their teaching time. It's due to end on June 30, 2005, but the latest guidance says that, if you have a contract for a job that starts by then, you'll be eligible.

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