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Secondary head responsible for almost 1,800 people earns less than a GP

The parents of the 1,520 pupils at Shenfield High School in Brentwood, Essex, can catch the train into London and earn City salaries. But not so for the teachers.

John Ellis (left to right in photograph), business studies team leader. New pay: pound;36,114 plus pound;9,188 TLR

Teaching was only intended as a temporary measure for John Ellis before he moved abroad or took a job in the City. But 36 years after he took his first teaching job at Shenfield, he is still there. Now 58, he is saddened by the paperwork that keeps him from the classroom, and concerned for the future as pay drops behind inflation. His daughter is considering nursery teaching, but he is not encouraging her to enter the profession.

Julie Wren, drama teacher, pound;21,619

In her first year of teaching, Julie Wren, 22, believes she is paid a fair wage. "I really valued my own education and what this country had offered me, and I wanted to give something back," she said. But friends in industries such as insurance are earning far more. She cannot consider buying or even renting a house in Brentwood, as it is too expensive. She commutes for over an hour each way from Colchester.

David Chidlow, business studies teacher, pound;26,893

As a marketing and licensing manager for Reuters, David Chidlow, 44, earned pound;56,000 plus bonuses. He has just begun a new career as a teacher earning less than half that. He has no regrets. The decision was made easier because he and his wife already owned a house in Gravesend and she was returning to full-time work. "It was the ability to make a difference to children's lives," he said. "Having worked for 20 years to satisfy shareholders, this is a lot nicer."

Marguerite Hudson, unqualified art teacher, pound;24,892 pro rata

Mrs Hudson, 58, was earning pound;40,000-plus in banking until 20 years ago when she left to start a family. She began helping out with art at her children's primary school, then took part-time work as an unqualified art teacher at Shenfield. Those on the unqualified pay scale are mostly specialist art or music tutors.

She is at the top of the unqualified teacher pay scale, but her younger colleagues will now be able to progress faster.

John Fairhurst, headteacher, pound;94,243

As head, John Fairhurst is the best-paid person in the school and he is not complaining about his salary.

But as the boss of 110 teachers and 70 support staff, and with responsibility for more than 1,500 pupils, he still earns less than a typical family GP. His main concern is being able to offer salaries that attract good staff. "The Government has not solved the recruitment crisis," he said. When he advertised for a science faculty head, he got two applications. When he advertised for a maths faculty head, he got none at all.

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