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Most teachers don't understand their pay system

DfE research finds mistrust and confusion over teachers' pay framework – but workload remains the key issue

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DfE research finds mistrust and confusion over teachers' pay framework – but workload remains the key issue

Research published today reveals a widespread confusion about teachers’ pay system in the wake of the introduction of performance-related pay.

The study from the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), commissioned by the Department for Education, reveals that just 45 per cent of teachers are clear about what they need to do to progress from the main pay scale to the upper pay scale; about a third do not know how much they could earn in their current role; and more than half (54 per cent) think the current pay structure should be simplified.

The report was published this afternoon, just as a letter emerged from Damian Hinds to Dr Patricia Rice, chair of the School Teachers’ Review Body, showing that the education secretary was seeking advice on teacher pay that would “promote recruitment and retention”.

Today's research, based on an online survey of 716 teachers and heads, combined with interviews with 15 heads, 50 teachers and 11 governors, looks into the effect of pay levels on recruitment and retention. It cites concern that pay ranges are being applied differently in schools – with some teachers at academies noting that nearby maintained schools pay more, while maintained school teachers think that academies could be offering better pay.

And while most teachers understand that teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payments are used for teachers with extra responsibilities, such as heads of departments or special educational needs and disabilities coordinators, they do not understand how the newer TLR3 payments for short-term projects work in their school.

The IES research states: “The majority of teachers, headteachers and governors felt that teaching is not primarily about pay and believe it is not what attracts people to the profession. However, when pay is regarded by teachers as unfairly awarded, or unequal to the task, it has a profound impact on their motivation.” 

The study notes such perceived unfairness as follows:

  • Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of staff agree with the statement "my school uses TLRs to boost pay in a way that I do not think is fair".
  • Some teachers bemoan promotions given with “fake job titles” that do not require any additional responsibilities.
  • Core subject teachers are seen to receive additional payments that are not accessible to other teachers – although sole teachers of a more minor subjects may have to take on additional responsibilities.

The research began before the announcement of the latest pay deal, which set rises at a rate of between 1 per cent and 3.5 per cent. 

Teachers’ pay was reformed in 2014 to tie pay more clearly to performance, with the aim of driving up quality and standards.

Today’s report states that “the DfE is keen to ensure that the pay framework continues to motivate teachers at all stages of their careers”.

But it concludes: “Most teachers reported that they work hours over and above their salaried 32.5 hours per week, and most are willing to do this, but they want to be remunerated fairly and rewarded for what they do.  

“However, some teachers commented that giving extra financial incentives would not be enough to make a difference. Some felt that it is a catch-22 situation: asking hardworking teachers who don’t have any more capacity to do more work for more money is not viable.

“Many of the teachers interviewed felt strongly that the primary cause of issues with teacher motivation and retention is the burden of the heavy workload that teachers do. They would rather see more teachers employed, which would mean a reduction in working hours (outside of the 32.5 hours which are salary-paid), than an increase in pay to continue performing the same (high) amount of work.”

As one primary teacher commented to researchers, the problem was not with the pay scale and allowances, but that teachers “work more hours than on our pay slip. And therefore we don’t get paid for the job that we do." They added: "As a class teacher, with no other responsibilities, you are responsible for 30, if not more, young people – their education and learning – and that is a hefty responsibility not to be paid rightly for.”

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