Six-figure heads earn every penny

14th September 2007 at 01:00
That more and more heads are earning pound;100,000 is enough to provoke envy in even the least money-grabbing of educators. To a teaching assistant struggling to make ends meet, these well-paid heads might seem like smug lottery-winners cracking open the bubbly. But the reality is different, and these salaries are not easily won.

The average 100k head has not been invited to any champagne photocalls, and will probably never know fame or glory. Instead, the highly paid leader has vast responsibility, accountability and workload that deserve reward. Heads sometimes compare running their schools to running companies: there are multi million-pound budgets, ranks of staff with competing, and sometimes conflicting, needs and demands.

Above all, hundreds of children must be educated as individuals. The simple "one-size-fits-all" approach is, rightly, no longer acceptable. Increasingly, the Government is putting the onus on schools to create socially conscious citizens who know how to manage their debts, stay slim and save the world from global warming. It is a big job, with few perks, so it requires the best, most committed and experienced people.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, says market forces mean successful heads will be able to command high salaries as the recruitment crisis deepens. But what about teachers? Where do they fit in as their leaders hit the jackpot?

It seems unfair that those in their first years of teaching are still receiving relatively little while the cost of housing spirals upwards. In London, where heads earn most, only a third of primary teachers have reached the upper pay scale. Figures suggest the capital's schools feed on the enthusiasm of young staff prepared to live like students to get experience. Well-meant schemes such as Teach First also exploit this eagerness.

These low rates of pay won't help schools to retain good teachers with experience who have the potential to move into middle management. Marriage and children all too often mean flight to the regions for semi-detached living and open spaces.

But there is hope. As the profession has a clear pay structure, all good teachers can climb the scale if they want to. If they are happy to leave the classroom and dedicate their lives to the multiple strains of managing a large school, the money is there.

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