Money talks

14th January 2011 at 00:00
You might be passionate about teaching, but you're not just doing it for love. Salary plays an important part, too. Steven Hastings sets out where you stand

New teachers usually start at the bottom of the pay spine, known as main scale point 1 (or M1) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and point 0 in Scotland. The current gross pay at those levels is #163;21,588 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and #163;21,438 in Scotland - although this is the only point on the main scale at which Scottish pay is less generous.

If you work in, or just outside, London, a special weighting boosts your salary, taking it to #163;22,626 in fringe areas, #163;25,117 in outer London or #163;27,000 in inner London. Those figures may sound attractive, but most new teachers say the extra money doesn't offset the higher cost of living in these areas.

For all new teachers, that first pay slip is a special moment. But remember that income tax, national insurance and teachers' pension contributions will all have been deducted at source. If you're paid at standard M1 level, your monthly take-home pay will be just #163;1,309 - and from April the year after you finished your training course, any student loan repayments will also be deducted.

Asking for more

Not all new teachers begin life at the bottom of the scale. Schools are entitled to start you at a higher point if the governing body decides there are grounds to do so. There is also no rule against NQTs being offered a Teaching and Learning Responsibility allowance, although that happens rarely.

The most likely reason for starting at M2 or M3 would be experience in another line of work, particularly if the skills are transferable or you can prove you've taken a pay cut to come into teaching. A school may also move you up a point if you have outstanding qualifications or if you teach a shortage subject - although TES jobs expert John Howson thinks this is less likely than it used to be. "In the current job market there are very few shortage areas, so everything is in favour of the employer," he says. "Unless you have valuable past experience, expect to be put at the bottom of the scale."

If you are confident you deserve a higher starting point, don't be afraid to ask. After all, while the immediate difference between M1 and M2 is only #163;1,700, because you move up the pay ladder at the end of each year, over a five-year period the aggregate difference in your earnings would be more than #163;10,000.

But you do need to tread carefully. Mention money too early in your interview and it will make a poor impression. Far better to wait until there's a firm job offer on the table, but even then you should avoid issuing an ultimatum or sounding too money-focused. Instead be positive about the job, but point out the qualities and past experience you feel merit a starting point of M2 or M3. Try to see things from the school's point of view - as an NQT you will get a 10 per cent reduction in your workload, which in budget terms makes you 10 per cent more expensive. Even if a school refuses to move your starting point, you may still be able to negotiate a one-off relocation package.

Independents and academies

Independent schools and academies have their own pay scales. In the case of academies, these tend to be modelled closely on the national scale, although there is probably more scope for negotiation about your starting point (for more on academies, see page 10).

In independent schools, pay varies widely. The big-name public schools can offer salaries as much as #163;8,000 above the national scale, although in a typical independent day school that will be around #163;2,000. Some small independents pay less than maintained schools, relying on longer holidays and smaller class sizes to make them attractive. If you apply to work in a boarding school, free accommodation is a possibility, particularly if you're single. It's a valuable perk, but you'll be expected to perform evening and weekend duties in return.

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