Top primary heads’ pay in England is highest in world

But new OECD report also shows classroom teachers in both primary and secondary sectors are paid less than European average

headteachers pay

Primary school headteachers in England have the highest maximum pay in the world, according to figures published today.

According to figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the maximum statutory salaries for primary heads in England are almost twice the EU or OECD average and more than 19 per cent higher than the equivalent role in the next highest country (Scotland).

The salaries were revealed in the OECD's Education at a Glance report, which also reveals that the maximum salaries of pre-primary heads are also the highest in the world, although when it comes to secondary headteachers, the maximum statutory salary in England is overtaken by Luxembourg and Mexico (for lower secondary) and by Luxembourg (in upper secondary).


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The report, which compares salaries in US dollars, sets out how education systems across the world compare in terms of funding, teachers and academic outcomes.

By contrast, the figures show that starting salaries for teachers in England, which are the same across all sectors, are below the OECD and EU averages at every level, including 14 per cent below the OECD average (for primary teachers) and 20 per cent lower than the OECD average (for upper secondary teachers).

Salaries at the top of the scale in all sectors are also below the OECD and EU average, including around 20 per cent lower than the OECD average for upper secondary teachers.

As revealed in last year’s report, teacher pay in England fell by 10 per cent between 2005-2017, and only teachers in crisis-hit Greece had taken a bigger hit than in England.

This was due to national debt and government responses to the financial crisis of late 2008, which pressure on policymakers to reduce government expenditure, particularly on public payrolls, the report states. 

Today’s report states: “In contrast to the general trend across OECD countries, teachers’ statutory salaries for those with 15 years of experience and the most prevalent qualification in England and Scotland have not recovered to their pre-Great Recession highs.”

The maximum primary headteacher’s salary in England was reported as £112,256 ($138,588). In Scotland, the maximum salary of a primary head is £90,336 ($111,588), while in the USA it’s £85,389 ($105,419) while the lowest was Poland at £22,131 ($27,323), according to the report.

In Scotland, earlier this year, a pay deal was agreed that ultimately equates to a 13.51 per cent increase over three years, starting with a backdated increase from April 2018.

A fully qualified teacher at the start of their career will be paid £32,994 from April 2020, up from the £27,438 which applied at the start of 2018.

headteacher at the top of the pay scale will earn £98,808 from April 2020, up from £88,056.

In England, the government last month announced a £14 billion extra funding package for schools and announced plans to reform teacher pay, including a £6,000 boost for starting salaries bringing them to £30,000.  

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: "This is the biggest reform to teacher pay in a generation, rewarding new teachers with one of the most competitive starting salaries in the graduate labour market.

He added: “As the OECD’s findings show, we are top of the G7 for government spending on primary and secondary education, which we are boosting with an additional £14 billion in school spending between now and 2022-23."

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