Navigating pay scales in independent education

Naturally, the most common question we hear from candidates looking to move into the independent sector is about the financial rewards. There is a common myth that all independent school teachers are paid far higher than their state school counterparts. This short article will aim to give a little more transparency on the issue. I’m afraid it is not a simple answer.

Why is it so complicated? Well you have to remember that independent schools in the UK come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. If one is a well-established member of one of the top accredited organisations (HMC, IAPS, GSA etc) then you should expect pay and conditions to be at least as good as the state sector. Schools that are perhaps smaller in size, just starting out, or not part of a larger accredited organisation can often pay less than the state sector; sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot.

Interestingly, the average teacher placed by Connaught Education for a September 2014 role earned just over £37k p.a. The average for a teacher within London was £38,500; that’s £2k more than M6 Inner London. The average pay out of London was still £36,300, which is £5k more than M6 excluding London. So on average, you can see the financial benefits of the independent sector with our clients.

What frustrates most candidates is the lack of transparency with independent school salary scales. When you are used to the maintained sector, you expect salary scales to be homogenous and simple. Independent schools can frankly pay you as much or as little as they like. Most schools don’t even advertise their pay scales or let you know of them whilst you are applying; this is where going through a trusted recruiter can be helpful as they can manage salary expectations on both sides early on.

Here are some top tips when considering remuneration when applying for independent school positions:

1) First things first, try to find out the main pay scale at the school? How much will you be paid relative to your years of experience?

Is there an Inner/Outer/Fringe London allowance? If so, is it a fair amount?

2) What is the extended scale for teachers who have gone through the threshold? In my experience, this is where salary disputes most often occur. Teachers in the state sector who have gone through the threshold can expect to earn very decent salaries. If there is a drop off point with independent schools, this is where it most often occurs. An independent school may have a specific salary range for a standard teacher (who will not be taking on extra responsibilities) and will not look to pay outside of this range no matter how many years of experience the candidate may have. Many of the more well-established independent schools are however happy to match or beat previous salaries for the right candidate.

3) Extra money for positions of responsibility. This would be for heads of departments, heads of years etc. Most independent schools will follow state example of paying addons for these positions. How much exactly does vary from school to school, so ask your recruiter.

4) What other financial incentives are available? Independent schools can often have other financial incentives which just aren’t applicable in the state sector. These can range from fee discounts for the children of staff to free/ very cheap accommodation. Make sure to ask what is on offer here.

5) Probably the most important point: non-financial incentives! When you finally do retire and look back on your career in independent schools, trust me you will not be thinking of the money you did or did not make. You need to think about all the other benefits to you and your career from working in the independent sector: smaller class sizes, a chance to teach at a highly academic level, the opportunities for extra curricular participation etc.

The independent sector is far from homogenous when it comes to salaries. My advice is to try and research early on the salary structures in the independent schools you are looking to apply to. A trusted recruiter should be able to help you with this. Always consider the other financial and non-financial incentives of the school you are applying to and make the most informed decision possible!


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