WATCH: England's teachers face more pupils for less pay

Teacher pay in England is below the developed-world average, says OECD report – while primary classes are among largest

Dave Speck and Josh Stein

Teachers in England have lower pay than the average for developed countries - and they often teach bigger classes, according to OECD report

Teacher pay in England has “slipped behind” that of other countries while class sizes have “slightly increased” on last year, according to today’s Education at a Glance report, published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Both issues “warrant attention”, according to Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s head of education and skills, who also said there was “a need to attract the most talented teachers to the most challenging classrooms”.

The report, which sets out how education systems across the world compare in terms of funding, teachers and academic outcomes, was launched this morning by Mr Schleicher at the headquarters of thinktank HEPI (Higher Education Policy Institute) in Westminster.

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Mr Schleicher, who launched the report in Japan yesterday and travels to Hong Kong to launch it later today, told Tes: “Relative pay of teachers has slipped behind – schools' heads are very well paid, and there’s no country in which heads are paid better than in England… but when it comes to teachers, that is certainly an issue.

Teacher pay and recruitment

“The size of classes has slightly increased. That’s not necessarily a bad choice in a financially constrained environment, but I think those things certainly warrant attention.

“Class sizes used to be below average and are now slightly above the average. But if you have to make a choice between a better teacher and a smaller class, going for the better teacher is important but that then requires good pay, attractive career [prospects] and good support, and also the capacity of the system to attract the most talented teachers to the most challenging classroom.”

The report states that: 

  • Starting salaries* for teachers in England are £23,522 (across all sectors) compared with an OECD average of £25,333 for early years, £26,776 for primary, £27,726 for lower secondary and £29,045 for upper secondary.

  • Salaries for primary teachers at the top of the pay scale are £39,654 compared with the OECD average of £44,844, while upper secondary teachers at the top of the scale in England are on £39,695 compared with an OECD average of £49,148.  

  • UK primary classes are some of the largest in the world, with an average of 27 pupils per class, in comparison to 21 children per class in the rest of the OECD.

  • Secondary schools have an average of 23 pupils per class, which is equal to the OECD average.

  • The UK government spends 0.7 per cent of its GDP on education for children between the ages of 3 and 5, in comparison with the OECD average of 0.6 per cent.

  • Some 31 per cent of UK teachers are below the age of 30, against a 13 per cent average in the OECD.

The DfE said last week it would increase starting salaries for teachers to £30,000. 

Commenting on the report, education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our education system is designed to deliver a quality education for young people of all backgrounds – giving them the grounding they need to make the most of their lives – which is why it is so important we get it right at every stage of their journey.

“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.

"This is alongside 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."

*salaries given in the report were in US dollars, but have been converted by Tes using today’s exchange rate of £0.81 to $1.

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Dave Speck and Josh Stein

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