What a funny old pay round;Hot data;Pay Award 99

5th February 1999 at 00:00
In March 1997, according to the Department for Education and Employment, the average teacher earned pound;21,670, with men averaging pound;22,880 and women pound;21,130. At that time, little more than 35,000 teachers - 10 per cent of classroom teachers - earned enough to support a pound;73,000 mortgage (the cost of an average house according to the Halifax price index).

This is yet another "funny" year for teachers' pay. But at least the settlement isn't being staged.

Students in training, however, will be looking anxiously at the settlement. As the pay rise is more than local authority treasurers may have been expecting, and less than the Government allowed for in its funding of councils, school budgets are likely to come under more pressure and jobs (outside the ring-fenced key stage 1 area) may disappear.

New entrants to the profession are also not being compensated for their extra year of training. While it is clear that many employers of graduates pay a premium to entrants with postgraduate qualifications, starting salaries in teaching are still equated with those for graduates leaving university after three-year degree courses. Those maths and science teachers with bursaries only serve to make this point more sharply. Their pay recognises the effects of market forces.

Heads and deputies form, in many cases, another group that need not worry about the size of the settlement. Market forces have always driven their pay. Indeed, the present six school groupings have little meaning now for salary purposes. What determines heads' and deputies' pay is how much the school can afford and whether there is additional funding from the standards and effectiveness unit at the DFEE.

Most "failing" schools now seek a head on a salary of pound;60,000 to pound;70,000 plus allowances. The Prime Minister may argue for performance- related pay after a school has been turned around, but local education authorities and governors are recognising the reality and paying "up front" to attract high-quality candidates.

For many teachers the basic salary, even after this year's pay rise, will still be less than that of many other public servants. Secondary teachers have always topped up their income by exam marking. With summer schools and other govern-ment initiatives, many primary school teachers will also be offered the chance to earn extra money within the system.

Ultimately, the Green Paper heralds the last pay settlement under old arrangements. We all agree that teaching is so important a career to society that it must attract and retain the best possible teachers. "Pay and perks" are as important to teaching professionals as they are to our medical, legal and accountancy colleagues.

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