But a TES investigation reveals that in the world of education, some are much better off than others. Martin Farrell reports
There's never been a better time to be a teacher, according to Education Secretary Charles Clarke.
The underpaid and undervalued days are over, he told the School Teachers'
Review Body last month. Since New Labour swept to power pay has soared 13 per cent, record numbers of graduates are entering the classroom and the workload deal promises to do wonders for conditions.
But not everyone is happy. The National Union of Teachers will give evidence to the review body in two weeks underlining the massive gulf that exists between teachers and other sectors.
Doug McAvoy, general secretary, will present the findings of a study showing that newly-qualified teachers earn 12 per cent less than the average graduate. He said the Government pledge to increase pay only in line with inflation for the next two years is not good enough and will demand a rise of at least 10 per cent.
But the pay chasm does not just separate teachers from other professions.
It seems nowhere is pay more varied than in the education system itself.
From civil servants to dinner ladies, The TES found startling pay differences when attempting to find the winners and losers in British schooling.
Top of the pile is Mark Haysom, the Learning and Skills Council's new chief executive, pulling in a basic pound;180,000 a year (probably nearer pound;200,000 with benefits). His pay packet is much bigger than his predecessor John Harwood (pound;125,000) but still falls well short of his wage as managing director of national newspapers at Trinity Mirror. According to that firm's 2002 accounts, he earned pound;430,000, plus share options and other benefits.
He is not the only official on a six-figure salary. The Department for Education and Skill's top civil servant, permanent secretary David Normington, takes home between pound;130,000 and pound;134,999. But even he may be beaten by his own director-generals. DfES accounts, suggest some of its six DGs could be on as much as pound;188,651, but we may never know the true amount. A spokeswoman said salaries can differ by almost pound;100,000, from pound;89,085 to pound;188,651, depending on where they worked before. She added: "We will be unable to give you a more exact figure."
Local education authority pay also varies widely. The director of education at England's biggest LEA, Kent, with 620 schools, takes home between pound;120,00 and pound;129,999. But at Rutland, with just 21 schools, the top job pays between pound;54,770 and pound;65,908.
The country's best-paid head is Alastair Falk who gets pound;120,000-a-year at the West London academy, but the head at a small primary can take home as little as pound;31,416. Heads' pay is normally related to school size, although governors can pay more to attract people to challenging schools.
Teachers' pay is equally varied. Most NQTs start on pound;18,105 (pound;21,522 with inner-London weighting). This can rise to pound;19,536 (or pound;22,977) the following year and progress annually up to pound;26,460 (pound;30,000) after five years but is subject to performing satisfactorily. Those who go on to cross the "threshold" to the upper pay spine - the DfES says 95 per cent who attempt are successful - can expect to earn up to pound;33,150 (pound;39,093 in inner-London). Classroom staff also get payments for extra duties ranging from pound;1,638 to pound;10,572. Special needs teachers could rake in an extra pound;3,312.
Assistants face large variations. A senior learning support worker in Gloucestershire - at the top of the assistant pay league - can earn more than pound;17,500. But many LEAs pay only during term time, leaving many assistants on as little as pound;8,500 over 12 months. That said, spare a thought for catering assistants. A recent advert for a dinner lady at one Torquay school promised pound;5.18 an hour, only during term time. The annual pay-packet? Just pound;3,936.