Teacher earnings 'not out of line'

Neil Munro

TEACHERS' earnings in Scotland "are not substantially out of line" with other countries although movements in pay have been "highly uneven" over the past 25 years in relation to other professions in the UK. These are the main conclusions of one of the academic studies commissioned by the McCrone inquiry.

The authors, David Bell of Stirling University and Peter Elias of Warwick University, based their comparisons on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which surveyed 23 countries. Although the OECD used figures for the UK as a whole, the tables described the position in 1996 when teacher salaries in Scotland were close to those in the rest of the UK (divergence set in immediately afterwards so teachers south of the border were between 3 and 5 per cent better off by 1998).

Salary per teaching hour in UK primary schools was shown as $38 four years ago, considerably above the international average of $31. But teachers in lower secondary were paid $41, almost on the average of $40. There are no salary differentials between lower and upper secondary teachers in this country, so the report suggests the overall comparison in the secondary sector would be the same.

But it is the length of the salary scale which distinguishes the structure of salares in the UK from that in other countries, according to the Bell-Elias study. Scottish teachers reach the top of their scale much more quickly - 10 years (which McCrone wants reduced to eight for the basic grade) compared with an international average of 25 years.

Professors Bell and Elias say the volatility in teacher pay is due to the oscillation between pay-fuelled inquiries (McCrone is the fourth in 25 years) and Government pay restraint. The result none the less is that "teachers have generally been moving towards the upper tail of the earnings distribution".

The study adds: "Earnings of some occupations have grown more quickly while others have grown more slowly. Within the education sector, teachers have fared well: their earnings have grown more rapidly than those in further or higher education."

Taking 13 other occupations between 1975-89, teachers' pay in Scotland rose from an average of pound;67 a week to pound;304, a nominal increase of 353 per cent but a real increase of 45 per cent which is around the middle of the league.

But from 1990-98, average weekly pay grew from pound;327.60 to pound;447.30. This was a rise of 36.5 per cent, equivalent to 3.7 per cent in real terms; only nursing auxiliaries, waiters and waitresses and the clergy did worse in the 1990s.

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Neil Munro

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