So, how much are you worth as a teacher?

8th January 2016 at 00:00
In today’s jobs market, staff shouldn’t be coy when it comes to salary negotiations

Since I started my career, the way in which teachers are paid has changed completely. Many schools are now financially independent academies, nationalised pay scales have been dissolved and performance-related pay has been introduced. There are no longer any guarantees regarding your salary or assurances that if you move school your new contract will match your previous one.

This has given rise to a peculiar aspect of job hunting. More and more teaching jobs are being advertised with no reference to salary and an unspoken understanding that pay will be negotiated if the applicant is successful.

This forces a potential applicant into what is perhaps an uncomfortable self-assessment: as a teacher, how much are you worth?

Personally, I have no idea. I was trained to engender a love of learning, manage a class of children and learn about best practice. I was not trained to negotiate my pay and view myself as a commodity.

When I was offered my first job, I asked a more senior colleague if I was allowed to ask for more money as I had substantial teaching experience abroad. I was told, “Don’t be silly.” Now, I must have a meeting once a year in which I justify how much I should be paid. The majority of us are not prepared for this new world. We aren’t salespeople, we can’t blag our way to higher salaries. We do it for the children, not for ourselves, so highlighting our own achievements is against our nature.

And yet, in this jobs market, we need to get clued-up fast. Here is a three-step process, gleaned from other teachers’ experiences, for negotiating your salary or contract:

Research

If you are applying for a job and no salary is mentioned in the advert, scan job websites like TES and look for similar jobs at schools that still use the national pay scale. Teaching union websites offer interesting insights into this as well, as they publish the teachers’ pay scales – this should give you a good starting point. Get an amount of money that you think is realistic in your head.

Consider details such as how much time you will spend teaching versus PPA time, and what other responsibilities you will be required/expected to complete. Compare the expectations for this role against similar jobs – if you can’t get the specifics from job adverts, ask around.

Negotiation

Teachers (well, the ones I know – including me) are rubbish at this. Don’t be. Value yourself. Hypothetically, if you want £12, you should ask for £14 – you will probably be offered £10, but, eventually, you will be able to settle midway. The same principle applies with timetable negotiations. If you don’t ask, you DEFINITIELY won’t get….

Be direct

Again, this is something that I feel teachers are woefully unprepared for when it comes to discussing money. When you settle on a deal, get it in writing (this could be the minutes of a meeting). Ask the “awkward” questions, such as: what is the pay progression for this job? How closely is pay progression linked to attainment? What other factors influence pay (extra-curricular activities, for instance)? When, and how, does performance management take place? And, if it is not at the start of the academic year, will any pay rises awarded be backdated to cover the whole academic year? How will this backdated pay affect your tax/pension/student loan payments?

It seems counterintuitive to have to write an article like this, talking about our worth in cold, hard cash terms; it seems to be the very opposite of what teaching is all about. Having said that: however generous and giving we teachers are of our own time, we don’t (and can’t) go to work for free.


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