Teacher pay in England and Scotland is ‘going backwards’, OECD warns

Teachers’ salaries in England are now so low they risk making teaching an unattractive profession, warns an influential international report on education published today.

In England, primary teachers earn 75 per cent of what similarly educated professionals can expect while secondary teachers are paid 82 per cent of the salary of a similarly educated worker, a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reveals.

Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the OECD, said: “You can see England and Scotland going backwards in real terms, when you look at salary between 2005 and 2013.

“In the case of Scotland and England, teachers have paid quite a price. You can see, between 2005 and 2008, everybody got better paid. Then came the financial crisis and until 2012 there has been a steep fall in the relative pay of teachers.”

The OECD’s Education at a Glance 2015 report finds that, on average across developed countries, primary teachers earn 78 per cent and secondary teachers are paid 80 per cent of the salary they could expect had they entered another profession.

“Pretty much for the first time in history, the last 10 years have not been so great for teachers in terms of getting more pay,” Mr Schleicher said.

“In the long term, you want to keep teaching attractive and want to attract the best and brightest into the profession, and that is a real challenge.”

The report shows that, between 2000 and 2013, teachers’ salaries across the developed countries increased overall in real terms. But in England they dropped by about 10 per cent.

It also shows that statutory starting salaries are comparatively low for teachers in England at the start of their careers, at £18,356 for a secondary teacher in 2013 compared with an OECD average of £20,510.

But after ten years of experience, teacher pay in England is above average for teachers in other developed countries, at £30,142 for secondary teachers compared with an OECD average of £25,959.

But beyond this initial rise during their first decade in the profession, teacher salaries in England and Scotland then largely stall, at £31,255 for top-end secondary teachers compared with an OECD average of £33,327.

Mr Schleicher said: “If you look at this in absolute terms, when you compare teachers’ starting salaries, they are clearly not attractive in England.

“What the UK does well, in our judgement, is it has quite a flexible pay scale with lots of incentive and benefits. If you add all of that up, teachers in the UK – compared to teachers in other countries, not relative to workers with similar qualifications – come out better.”

The average actual salary for a secondary teacher in England is calculated at £30,618, compared with an OECD average of £28,813. England has the 12th highest actual salary out of 25 countries.

John Bangs, senior consultant at Education International, the umbrella group for teaching unions across the world, said: “The OECD’s analysis makes it clear that there is high correlation between highly performing education systems and high levels of teachers’ pay.

“Basically, the OECD is ringing alarm bells that declining teachers’ pay is going to undermine educational quality. Teachers’ pay is not similar in many OECD countries with other comparable professions and potential teachers are going elsewhere.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Great teachers are at the heart of this government’s commitment to delivering educational excellence everywhere.

“This is why we are not only tackling excessive teacher workload but have also given headteachers the freedom to pay good teachers more, meaning the best teachers can access greater rewards earlier in their careers.

“Teachers in England earn more than their peers across the OECD and, after 10 and 15 years’ experience, salaries are substantially above the OECD average.”

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