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On the map - School leaders' pay - Putting a price on leadership

The pay of school leaders has been much in the news over the past year. This is partly because some very high salaries for heads have been reported. Perhaps as a result of public interest, the Department for Education has, for the first time, published details of the number of school leaders earning between #163;40,000 and #163;110,000.

The data covers nearly 57,000 teachers, but excludes those such as school business managers who are frequently not from a teaching background, and are not, as a result, covered by the survey. Thus, the figure covers heads, deputies and assistant heads. About 1,700 school leaders, almost all in the primary sector, earned less than #163;40,000 in November 2010, the date of the survey. At the other end of the scale, about 200 teachers were earning over #163;110,000.

The actual number might be higher, as 900 salaries were coded as mis-reported, and the footnote to the survey laconically comments that it "includes those teachers earning a maximum of #163;200,000 per annum.

The small number of salaries above this figure appears to be mis-reported". No doubt when the final version of the table is issued, the mis-reporting will have been rectified.

As might be expected, only 1,600 primary leaders out of the 33,000 on the leadership scale earned more than #163;70,000 at the time of the census. The level of mis-reporting was also relatively low, at just 300 salaries. The average salary for women in a leadership role in a primary school was #163;51,000, whereas for men it was #163;53,700, even though women outnumbered men by about three to one.

In the secondary sector, excluding academies, 3,400 leaders earned more than #163;70,000, with again some 300 mis-reported salaries. Given that secondary schools are larger than primary schools, and pay for school leaders has always been related to school size, this greater number is to be expected. However, it does mean that about one in five school leaders in the secondary sector earned #163;70,000 or more in November 2010. Interestingly, 400 of these, probably all headteachers, earned over #163;100,000. The average salary for a man on the leadership scale in a secondary school was #163;61,700, whereas for a woman it was #163;59,400.

Among the 2,300 school leaders working in academies, 300 earned more than #163;70,000 but there were another 300 mis-reported salaries, about one in eight of all leadership salaries. Given the small number of institutions involved, it should be possible to correct these figures by the time the final report appears. Perhaps because so many academies are located in inner London, average pay, for men and women, topped the #163;60,000 level, with those over 55 averaging in excess of #163;70,000.

What the differential in pay between an NQT and a head of a 2,000-pupil school should be is a matter for debate, but if these salaries move upwards substantially more than incremental increases would dictate during the two-year pay freeze, questions will need to be asked about how pay for school leaders is regulated.

Professor John Howson is director of Data for Education, an independent research analysis company.

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