Teacher union leaders are furious that last year 933 state school head-teachers earned a six figure salary. In fact, 41 heads actually earned more than the Prime Minister’s £141,500, with a couple breaching the £190,000 mark.
However, given that there are well over 20,000 state schools in England, these high earners represent a small minority of the total. Many of them are ‘executive heads’ running several large secondary schools. Compared to leaders in banking, commerce and industry our head-teachers remain poorly paid.
In comparison with other countries, our teachers do rather well. Last year, an OECD report showed that British teachers are among the best paid in the world and ahead of all other European countries, except for Germany, Denmark and tiny Luxembourg.
Our teachers also work fewer hours per year – an average of only 684 in the classroom compared to 936 in France, according to the latest OECD survey. Primary schools teachers here earn around twice as much per hour as primary school teachers in France.
All of this makes a nonsense of union claims that teachers have, in effect, never had it so bad. In the light of the recent information about those high-earning head-teachers, Chris Keates, of the NASUWT, claimed that schools “pay head-teachers what they want and teachers what they can get away with.” Few head-teachers, including myself, would agree. In nearly all cases, head-teachers are paid what they are worth and in most cases this is well below the six figure threshold.
These days, head-teachers are rather like football managers with the exit door remaining closed for as long as results hold up. Any comparison with David Cameron’s salary tells us, only, that in the UK the Prime Minister is underpaid. Given the current economic climate this is not about to change. However, if we get the quality of head-teachers we are prepared to pay for, the same is true with regard to the quality of our politicians. A lot of very able people, not least on the Left, simply cannot afford to enter parliament.
The real salary scandal in the world of education is not in high salaries being paid to an elite group of, mostly, able head-teachers. It is the salaries being paid to non-teaching administrators, aka ‘chief executives’, of some academies and academy chains.
I am in favour of the academy programme and, from personal experience, am very familiar with the process by which they are set up and run. However, few ‘outsiders’ have much in-depth understanding. As an example, even ‘expert’ media commentators seem to think that an academy is run by a board of governors. In fact, not a single academy in the country is required to have a board of governors. They all do have ‘governors’, of course, but I wonder how many of these so-called governors understand that they have no powers independent of the company trustees, sitting in the background, who actually hold all the reins of power.
These trustees have to pay out a great deal of money to ‘pen-pushing’ administrators who know how the ‘ins and outs’ of DfE bureaucracy work in relation to academies. It is the ‘Achilles heel’ of the entire academy and free schools programme. Salaries of well over £300,000 are being paid out to those overseeing the paperwork in academy chains. I even know of one average-size primary school academy where the non-teaching administrator merits a salary package approaching £200,000. The academies minister, Lord Nash, needs to get a grip before his Department is brought into serious disrepute.