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Q: I am thinking of applying for a post in an academy in London. Do they pay the same salary as other schools?

A: Academies are free to set their own pay scales and, possibly even more importantly, their own terms and conditions. Some benefits, such as the ability to contribute to the Teachers' Pension Scheme, usually remain the same, but others, such as a maximum number of teaching hours, may be excluded from the contract or different to what you could expect in a maintained school.

That said, academies are not exempt from the effects of the labour market for teachers and, if they make too many changes, potential employees will weight up the benefits of working in an academy against those of working in the maintained sector and see whether it is worth it.

However, once there are more than 400 academies, the Government's target, there may be so many different terms and conditions that the professional associations will need to either advise their members on the many different contracts, or seek to persuade the Government that too much differentiation is bad for the market.

Changing the terms and conditions of teachers might put them at a disadvantage if the present over-supply that exists in many subjects were to become a shortage. National bargaining has meant that teachers could move between schools relatively free of concerns about differences in pay and conditions. That era could now be drawing to a close.

John Howson is a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University. To ask him a question, email him at askjohnhowson@tes.co.uk.

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