Starting out

Sara Bubb is an education consultant specialising in induction. She answers questions at

Did you go into teaching because of the money? Probably not, but salary is important. A survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) showed 40 per cent of new teachers have debts of more than pound;10,000.

Teachers' pay is confusing. There are different pay scales for unqualified teachers, people on the main scale, upper scale, Advanced Skills Teachers, the leadership group (deputies) and also heads. Within each of these, there are four scales depending on whether you work in inner, outer, or the fringe of London or elsewhere in England and Wales.

There's nearly pound;4,000 difference between the areas so it pays to be strategic. Of the capital's 33 boroughs, those which border a county are classed as outer London and all others are inner. Ealing, Haringey and Merton are classed as inner London, even though they're not in the inner ring. There are no easy rules about fringe payments but you get it as far out as Welwyn and Hatfield.

All new teachers start on the six-point main scale unless they don't have qualified teacher status, in which case they are paid on the 10-point unqualified scale.

Most people start on M1 (pound;19,641 outside the London area) and after six years will be at the top of the scale and so entitled to move to the upper pay scale. You move up a point every September, subject to satisfactory progress. Late starters, part-timers and temporary teachers go up a point if they have been employed for at least 26 weeks during the year.

You can start higher up the scale than M1 in recognition of "relevant"

experience, though relevance is interpreted differently by different schools. The ATL survey of 361 new teachers in England and Wales found 43.5 per cent were paid above M1.

But, you've got to be proactive about stating your case because it's entirely at the discretion of governing bodies - and it's a buyers' market in primary, especially. I know a new business studies teacher who's on M5 (pound;26,707 outside London) but a 46-year-old mother of four with 20 years' experience as a nursery nurse and a first class BEd is only on M1 because she didn't ask for more. I hope the former is worth the extra pound;7,000 a year but it doesn't seem fair to me

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