It pays to be in the know

Middle management allowances and pay scales can be confusing. John Howson, recruitment analyst, makes sense of the market for teachers moving up the career ladder

John Howson

Each year about 10,000 teaching vacancies are advertised by schools for middle leaders. About 70 per cent are for posts for a head of department or subject or some such similar description. The other 30 per cent are for responsibilities within larger departments that don't actually constitute head of department status. These posts can include key stage responsibility or control of other aspects of teaching and learning.

It is now three years since the introduction of teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payments. These replaced the complex arrangements of management allowances that were controlled nationally.

The present system contains an upper TLR1 band and a lower TLR2 band and within these bands, schools are free to set their own ranges so long as each step has a set amount between it.

The range is between pound;2,422 and pound;5,920 for TLR2 and pound;6,997 and pound;11,841 for a TLR1. There are no extra payments for high-cost areas, unless a school chooses to increase the minimum for the range it uses. Most schools have tended to stick to similar amounts, but some have devised their own ranges. Not all schools reveal the actual salary when a post is advertised. Some choose to use classifications such as 2a, 2b or 2c or 1i, 1ii or 1iii, leaving would-be candidates to make assumptions about what the school is prepared to offer.

There are also about 200 head of department posts advertised each year on the leadership scale. The majority, 139 of the total, are in five subject areas. Perhaps it is not surprising that nearly 20 per cent are for heads of maths departments, with 10 per cent for heads of science, and just over 5 per cent for heads of English departments.

Almost 10 per cent are for special needs co-ordinators or heads of special needs departments. However, by far the largest single category of head of department post advertised on the leadership scale is for heads of teaching and learning. Of the 47 posts in this category, the majority were for heads of sixth form. Virtually all such posts are now advertised on the leadership scale.

After studying the schools that have advertised an actual salary for a head of department post over the period since TLRs were introduced, it has become clear that two types of post have emerged either by accident or design. There are some subjects where the salary is determined by the job description, essentially "a rate for the job", largely irrespective of the size of the school, and then there are other posts where schools seem to have more freedom to decide upon the value of the TLR they are prepared to attach to a subject.

Most of the key national curriculum subjects seem to attract similar salaries regardless of the size of the school. Thus, the median amount for heads of English, maths or science in 2007-08 was a TLR of pound;8,405. This amount covered about one-third of all head of department vacancies advertised in these subjects. However, for heads of music there were two clusters of TLRs. The lower at about pound;3,900 was favoured by 46 schools, whereas a higher amount of about pound;5,800 was offered by 29.

Why do they differ? The amount offered may have been determined by how important a school regards its music department to be in the whole life of the school.

The level of a TLR offered seems unaffected by a school's location. There is no discernable regional pattern, such as schools close to London offering a higher amount to counteract the effect of the London allowance on the basic salary. All this means that there is little room for manoeuvre for a would-be head of department as far as salary is concerned.

Most jobs at this level are the result of either the retirement or the promotion of the previous post holder. At the moment, retirements probably account for a higher than average number of vacancies as a result of the large number of teachers in their 50s with TLRs. About a third of primary and more than half of all secondary school teachers had either a protected management allowance or a TLR in March 2007. The latest date information is available from the Department for Children Schools and Families.

Middle management jobs tend to be advertised earlier in the calendar year than mainscale teaching posts. Our data for secondary schools advertising TLR1 head of department posts revealed that two thirds of the 2007-08 vacancies appeared in the four months between January and May, with April alone accounting for 20 per cent of advertised vacancies. The pattern for heads of department on a TLR2 is very similar, again with the peak in April.

Finally, within the range of middle management posts are the two grades of Excellent Teacher and Advanced Skills Teacher. Both were devised to reward teachers for ability in specific teaching and learning areas without the need for them to take on departmental responsibilities. ASTs were, however, expected to undertake outreach activities when the grade was first established. Although the number on the Excellent Teacher grade is not known, the post has been virtually invisible at the national level with 18 posts advertised nationally as requiring an Excellent Teacher where the job is related to this grade rather than a requirement for a teacher who is excellent at their job.

Adverts for ASTs are more frequent, with 481 recorded advertisements in 2007-08. Advertisements for maths ASTs made up roughly 40 per cent of all AST advertisements, followed by those for English, IT and science.

Only IT, design and technology and modern languages among the other subject areas reached double figures. The humanities seem particularly poorly served with adverts for ASTs. The uneven distribution raises the question of the extent to which the grade is being used for the purpose it was designed or is subverted into just another recruitment tool that provides a school with the opportunity to offer certain hard to recruit staff higher salaries?

For some who aspire to a head of department post it is just a stepping stone to a more senior post later in their career, but for many it may represent their final level of achievement. For both groups it is important that the job is fulfilling and financially rewarding. Middle managers are the backbone of every school. Despite the importance of leadership in creating a successful school, it can't maintain that success without the support of an effective middle management team.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys at TSL Education Ltd. Next week he looks at leadership positions.

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