Cuts may be looming for schools, along with a potential freeze on teachers' pay. But the latest TES pay survey shows that senior figures in the education system are earning record salaries and bonuses.
The gap between the richest and the poorest working in the schools sector is wider than ever before. Some education quango leaders are now on salaries of more than pound;200,000 - 20 times the average pay of a teaching assistant.
This year's figures also show that state school heads are catching up with the salaries of those running some of Britain's most prestigious public schools. Since September, at least 42 headteacher jobs - mostly in academies - have been advertised at salaries above pound;100,000, some offering more than pound;150,000.
John Howson, recruitment analyst at Education Data Surveys (EDS), says: "Although still not competitive with salaries for company directors, senior salaries in schools have increased significantly over the past few years, widening the gap between the staff and those in leadership positions.
"Whether it is sensible for a school to spend up to pound;1 in every pound;20 of its budget on leadership is a key issue for governors. But, having let the genie out of the bottle, putting it back won't be easy."
The survey includes only those working for public sector organisations or charities, such as private schools, so some senior figures in private companies, specifically the exam boards, may earn even more than those on the list.
The table is topped by four public sector roles each of which carries remuneration which outstrips the Prime Minister's salary.
At the very top is Geoff Russell, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the quango responsible for funding post-16 education.
He received over pound;250,000, including a pension contribution of more than pound;50,000.
However,the LSC closes on April 1, after splitting its roles between three new agencies. So Mr Russell will become chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency, a smaller organisation that may pay less.
Also changing jobs is Andrew Hall, in second place in our listings, who will be leaving his post as chief executive of the QCDA qualifications agency to become chair of exam board AQA in June. This may prove a canny move as the Conservatives have threatened to scrap the QCDA if they gain power.
In third place is former primary school headteacher and Ofsted chief inspector David Bell, who now earns up to pound;205,000 as permanent secretary at the Department for Children, Schools and Families. This is an increase of almost a quarter on his pay four years ago - and means he now receives four times the average pay of a primary head.
Mr Bell's successor at Ofsted, Christine Gilbert, is in fourth place, but she would have been paid more than him if she had not turned down a performance-related bonus last year, an action taken by a small group of heads of public sector organisations.
Whether many of the other high-paying quangos - including school technology adviser Becta - will be on the list next year will depend on whether the Conservatives gain power, and how far they take their plans to cull them.
High earners are also found in local authorities among directors of children's services - a role that tends to pay significantly more than the director of education post that existed in the past because of the increased responsibility.
We have included only a sample of these roles, but salaries vary between up to pound;190,000 for Rosalind Turner, director of children's services for Kent, to pound;75,350 for Carol Chambers in Rutland, the smallest local authority, who earned only fractionally more than the average secondary head.
The increasingly high-pressure nature of the job became apparent after the public hounding of Sharon Shoesmith in Haringey over the Baby P case. This means local authorities are likely to have to offer even higher salaries to attract new candidates.
The table is not comprehensive on heads' pay, and the majority of salaries listed date from the previous academic year. But it does contain figures for some of Britain's best-known heads.
The highest-earning is Anthony Little of Eton, who earned up to pound;189,000 plus pension contributions and free use of a house in 200809.
This is not markedly more than the pay of the man likely to be the highest-earning state school head during that period. Sir Alan Davies, head of Copland School in Wembley, north-west London, received around pound;183,000, including an pound;80,000 bonus. But Sir Alan resigned after an investigation into the school's bonus policy - it was alleged that senior staff received almost pound;1.6m in unlawful bonuses - so he is not included in the listings.
In contrast, the man likely to be the highest-earning state primary head, Greg Martin of Durand Primary in Lambeth, south London, benefited from a legitimate extra payment, backed by his governors, for helping oversee the running of a gym complex on his school site.
While a growing number of comprehensive heads - and a handful of those in primaries - are expected to earn more than pound;100,000, the average primary head was on pound;52,000 while a secondary head earned pound;73,000.
Academies and federations remained the biggest payers: one of the higher salaries will go to whoever becomes executive head of the federation planned for Henry Compton and Fulham Cross Girls' schools in Hammersmith and Fulham, west London, a job advertised at pound;120,000 to pound;150,000 "or more for an exceptional candidate". The standard starting pay for academy heads is now pound;110,000.
Professor Howson of EDS says the size of academy heads' pay is particularly surprising when compared with a high-profile figure in Parliament, such as Michael Gove, Conservative education spokesman, who receives the standard pound;64,766 pay of an MP. "Whatever one thinks of politicians, it seems wrong that the head of any academy can expect to earn twice the salary of the shadow secretary of state for schools," Professor Howson says.
Yet while Mr Gove may only receive an MP's salary, he more than doubled his income last year through his journalism and his appearances on Newsnight Review. However, Conservative leader David Cameron announced last year that all members of the shadow cabinet would give up their outside interests before the start of 2010.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls was the top-earning elected figure in the table, on pound;143,946. But this was less than some headteachers, and significantly less than several directors of children's services.
The top-earning education union leader continues to be Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who received a salary of pound;105,198 plus pound;22,551 pension contributions.
Meanwhile the biggest pay increase over the past four years in this category went to Mick Brookes, National Association of Head Teachers general secretary, whose salary has risen from pound;90,000 to pound;102,967.
But all the pay increases for union leaders during that period - approximately pound;8,000 for leaders of the classroom unions - paled in comparison to the rises given to quango heads such as Graham Holley, chief executive of the Training and Development Agency for Schools, whose pay rose by about pound;23,000.
The table suggests some differences between pay for senior posts in England, Wales and Scotland. While the maximum salary of pound;102,734 being offered for the headteacher post at Bassaleg Comprehensive in Newport may not seem enormous compared with similar posts in England, it is one of the most generous for Wales.
Meanwhile, the head of Scotland's largest secondary, Tom McDonald of Holyrood Secondary in Glasgow, was paid pound;78,000, which is little more than the average headteacher pay for England and Wales. All the average teacher pay figures listed are for England and Wales because the Scottish government was unable to provide comparable ones.
Payment for quango heads largely reflected the size of the nation in which they operate. So the remuneration for being chief schools inspector was pound;196,000 for England, and pound;110,000 each for Scotland and Wales. Similarly, the chief executive of the General Teaching Council for England earned up to pound;140,000 while his counterparts in Scotland and Wales received pound;98,913 and pound;85,000, respectively.
National pay agreements mean that teachers' pay in state schools is broadly predictable, with those in areas such as London, or who receive teaching and learning responsibility points, earning more than the standard scales.
This may change if more academies use their powers to break away from the national pay agreement, but currently relatively few do and those that have done so have increased teachers' pay only slightly.
However, the latest national figures show a clear link remains between gender and earnings.
So while the - relatively few - male primary teachers earn, on average, no more than their female counterparts in secondary schools, men earn an average of pound;1,300 more.
This gap tends to become more pronounced in more senior posts, with male special school heads earning, on average, pound;5,900 more than their female counterparts.
Studies by the General Teaching Council for England have indicated that women are about four times as likely as men to say that factors in their private lives, especially children, have limited their careers.
Professor Becky Francis, director of the centre for educational research in equalities, policy and pedagogy at Roehampton University, says the figures showed how powerfully gender affected teachers' careers.
"That may be about social choices, but it's also about social expectations," she says. "It's quite ironic that there are constant calls for more male teachers when they are the ones who are likely to earn much more in their careers."
How much will teacher pay increase next year? A national salary hike of 2.3 per cent is due in September, but the chancellor has capped increases at 1 per cent for the following two years - while the Tories have threatened a public sector pay freeze.
Some significant roles in the education system carry no salary at all.
Gillian Low receives nothing for being president of the Girls' Schools Association, although she is paid for being head of Lady Eleanor Holles School in Middlesex.
But the ones who have the lowest salaries remain support staff, including caretakers, catering staff and teaching assistants (TAs).
Salary survey data collected by the union Unison suggests that the average caretaker earns pound;15,641, while the average TA is paid pound;10,402.
The TA pay figure is skewed by the fact that only about a quarter work full-time.
However, the majority have been in the job for more than five years and many of them are in debt, a fifth owing more than pound;10,000, roughly equivalent to their average annual wage.
Additional research by Irena Barker, Kerra Maddern, William Stewart, David Marley, Richard Vaughan, Liz Buie and Darren Evans. Figures are latest available, but publication dates vary so some may relate to different academic years
Who earns what
- Chief executive, Learning and Skills Council - Geoff Russell: pound;258,343 (Salary of pound;207,838 plus pension contribution of pound;50,505)
- Chief executive, QCDA - Andrew Hall (stepping down in June): pound;210,000 to pound;220,000 (Salary of pound;165,000 to pound;170,000 plus pound;56,300 benefits in kind)
- Permanent secretary, DCSF - David Bell: pound;200,000 to pound;205,000
- Chief schools inspector, Ofsted - Christine Gilbert: pound;196,000
- Managing director for children, families and education, Kent County Council - Rosalind Turner: pound;170,000 to pound;190,000
- Headmaster, Eton - Anthony Little: pound;180,000 to pound;189,999 (Plus pension contributions and use of a house)
- Chief executive, Training and Development Agency for Schools - Graham Holley: pound;179,000 (pound;139,400 salary plus pound;4,000 bonus and pound;33,400 pension contributions)
- Director of corporate services, Ofsted - Lorraine Langham: pound;177,500
- Chief executive, Ofqual - Isabel Nisbet: pound;172,700 (pound;150,000 salary and pound;22,700 benefits in kind)
- Director of children and young people's services, Bexley Borough Council - Deborah Absalom: pound;172,000
- Principal, Cheltenham Ladies' College - Vicky Tuck: pound;170,000 to pound;180,000 (Plus pension)
- Headmaster, Wellington College - Anthony Seldon: pound;162,880 (Plus pension)
- Director of learning and skills, Ofsted - Melanie Hunt: pound;162,500
- Chief executive, National College - Steve Munby: pound;160,000 to pound;165,000
- Director of children's services, Hertfordshire - John Harris: pound;156,708
- Headteacher, Durand Primary, Lambeth - Greg Martin: pound;155,000 (Basic salary of pound;70,000 plus pound;85,000 for managing onsite gym)
- Chief executive, Becta - Stephen Crowne: pound;151,000 (pound;140,000 salary plus pound;11,000 performance-related bonus)
- Executive head, Henry Compton and Fulham Cross, London - Executive head advertised at pound;120,000 to pound;150,000 - "Or more for an exceptional candidate"
- Schools Secretary - Ed Balls: pound;143,946
- Children's Commissioner for England - Maggie Atkinson: pound;140,000 (Plus expenses - no figure given)
- Director general, Wales' Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills - David Hawker: pound;135,000 to pound;140,000
- Chief executive, GTC for England - Keith Bartley: pound;135,000 to pound;140,000
- Director of children and young people's services, Isle of Wight - Colin Peak: pound;132,970
- General secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers - Mary Bousted: pound;127,749 (Salary of pound;105,198 plus pound;22,551 pension contributions)
- Headteacher, proposed academy, Ashford, Kent - Advertised at Around pound;125,000
- Executive director of children's services, Newcastle - Post advertised at pound;125,000
- General secretary, National Association of Head Teachers: Mick Brookes: pound;123,560 (pound;102,967 salary plus pound;20,593 pension contributions)
- Headteacher, Saint John Bosco School, Wandsworth - Head advertised at pound;100,000 to pound;120,000
- General secretary, ASCL - John Dunford: pound;118,540 (Salary of pound;103,891 plus pound;14,649 pension contributions)
- General secretary, NUT - Christine Blower: pound;117,696
- General secretary, NASUWT - Chris Keates: pound;115,692 (Salary of pound;94,059 plus pound;21,633 pension contributions (200809))
- Headteacher, proposed CofE academy, Plymouth - Head advertised at pound;115,000 (up to)
- Under-secretary for children - Delyth Morgan: pound;110,606
- Headteacher, Hope Academy, Liverpool - Head advertised at pound;110,000 (Plus performance-related bonus and relocation package)
- Headteacher, Birmingham Ormiston Academy - Head advertised at pound;110,000 (Plus benefits and performance bonus)
- Headteacher, North Wolverhampton Academy - Head advertised at pound;110,000 plus
- Chief inspector, Estyn, Wales - Post advertised at pound;110,000
- Senior chief inspector, HMIE, Scotland - Bill Maxwell: pound;110,000
- Carisbrooke and Medina High Schools, Isle of Wight - Chief executive advertised at pound;110,000
- Headteacher, Garston and South Liverpool Business and Enterprise Academy - Head advertised at pound;100,000 to pound;110,000 (Plus performance-related pay)
- Children's minister - Dawn Primarolo: pound;105,919
- Schools minister - Vernon Coaker: pound;105,919
- Chief executive, Learning and Teaching Scotland - Bernard McLeary: pound;104,611
- Headteacher, Grace Academy, Solihull - Head advertised at pound;100,000 (Including bonus and benefit)
- Education secretary for Scotland- Michael Russell: pound;99,259 (Ministerial salary, including MSP pay)
- Chief executive, GTC for Scotland - Anthony Finn: pound;98,913
- Under-secretary for schools - Diana Johnson: pound;95,617
- Under-secretary for 14-19 - Iain Wright: pound;95,617
- Wales' minister for education - Leighton Andrews: pound;94,478 (Basic member salary of pound;53,108 plus ministerial salary of pound;41,370)
- General secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland - Ronnie Smith: pound;89,388
- Bassaleg Comprehensive, Newport, Wales - Head advertised at pound;88,664 to pound;102,734
- Shafton Advanced Learning Centre, Barnsley - Head advertised at pound;88,664 to pound;102,734
- Bispham and Beacon Hill High School - Executive head advertised at pound;86,514 to pound;100,228
- Chief executive, GTC Cymru - Gary Brace: pound;80,000 to pound;85,000
- Northern Ireland minister for education - Caitriona Ruane: pound;80,901.96 (Combined ministerial and assembly member salary)
- Chief education officer, Church of England schools - Reverend Jan Ainsworth: pound;71,000 to pound;80,000 (Includes benefits)
- Headteacher, Holyrood Secondary (Scotland's largest secondary school) - Tom McDonald: pound;78,000
- Director of children and young people's services, Rutland - Carol Chambers: pound;75,350
- Chairman, QCDA - Chris Trinick: pound;70,100 to pound;75,100 (Salary of pound;60,000 to pound;65,000 plus pound;10,100 benefits in kind)
- General secretary, Voice teachers' union - Philip Parkin: pound;66,777 (Plus pound;5,507 pension contributions)
- Chair, Commons schools select committee - Barry Sheerman: pound;64,766
- Shadow schools secretary - Michael Gove: pound;64,766
- Liberal Democrat schools spokesman - David Laws: pound;64,766
- Shadow schools minister - Nick Gibb: pound;64,766
- HMI Ofsted school inspectors - HMIs: pound;64,088
- Registrar, GTC Northern Ireland - Eddie McArdle: pound;62,451
- Chair, Ofqual - Kathleen Tattersall: pound;65,400 (pound;60,000 salary (part-time) plus pound;5,400 benefits)
- Chair, education committee (NI) - Mervyn Storey: pound;53,362 (Combined ministerial and assembly member salary)
- Chair, GTC for England - Gail Mortimer: pound;29,000 (Based on remuneration to predecessor)
- Chair, GTC for Northern Ireland - Sally McKee: pound;10,000 (Part-time post, paid quarterly)
- Convenor, GTC for Scotland - David Drever: pound;0 (No remuneration or attendance allowance (but does get expenses))
- President, Girls' Schools Association - Gillian Low: pound;0 (For the role itself. However, she receives a salary for being head of Lady Eleanor Holles in Hampton, Middlesex)
Salary by position
- Secondary head (male): pound;74,400
- Secondary head (female): pound;70,600
- Special school head (male): pound;64,900
- Special school head (female): pound;59,000
- Primary head (male): pound;53,300
- Secondary deputy (male): pound;52,300
- Primary head (female): pound;51,500
- Secondary deputy (female): pound;51,200
- Special school deputy (male and female): pound;49,100
- Primary deputy (male): pound;44,100
- Primary deputy (female): pound;43,100
- Special school teacher (male): pound;37,500
- Special school teacher (female): pound;36,300
- Secondary teacher (male): pound;35,000
- Secondary teacher (female): pound;33,700
- Average teacher pay (overall): pound;32,990
- Primary teacher (male and female): pound;31,000
- Teach First teacher: pound;20,000 (approximate)
- Pay increases from a minimum of pound;16,734 in the first year to a maximum of pound;26,000 in the second, depending on the school
- School caretaker: pound;15,641
- Teaching assistant: pound;10,402.