Teachers Pay In Free Schools?

Shane Rae's picture
We all know that one of the concerns/benefits of the Free Schools (depending of your position) is that of FS's being able to employ unqualified teachers.

To me it's a concern, but it would be as I have spent almost all of my working life as a teacher. I spent 10 years as a teacher in private schools here in the UK most recently and I can say with authority that one of the things that parents of privately educated children will be aghast to find out is that generally teachers in the private sector are payed considerably LESS than their state counterparts. Many of the really talented, spirited teachers that I worked with either moved to another school for better pay or repatriated to the state sector for better pay. Indeed, when I left the private school where I was a Head of Department, I was making barely half of an identically skilled and experienced counterpart in the state sector.

I just wanted to make the point that schools that are free to dictate their own wage scale will obviously be able to attract the best quality staff if they choose to direct funding this way (they'd be foolish not to). Yes teaching is a vocation but remuneration will always be a factor.

So what effect will allowing Free Schools to set their own pay and conditions for teachers have on performance management and state school's ability to attract the very best teachers?
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Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 12/09/2011 - 15:17

Academies are also free to set their own pay and conditions for teachers. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Principal of Mossbourne, says that his staff are on a "no hours" contract which means they work when the school wants them to. He boasted that his teachers regularly work a 15 hour day. This is unacceptable.

Also unacceptable is a perk for academy teachers which is rated highly by Mr Gove - free private medical insurance courtesy of the tax payer. Harris academy chain already offer this.


There is a danger that schools will offer more computerised learning to cut the cost of teacher salaries. This has happened in free schools in Sweden. And the Adam Smith Institute, in its report about profit-making private schools, said it was possible to cut staff costs by opting-out of the teachers' pension scheme, employing teachers who could be subsidised by partners who were also earning, and employing teachers who were nearing retirement age who had fewer family responsibilities.


Nigel Ford's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 08:51

Don't teachers in the private sector enjoy benefits like the provision of free or subsidised accommodation, fee remission for your children's education, private medical insurance, access for the family to school facilities such as swimming pools, squash and tennis courts, and free meals?


Shane Rae's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 09:02

Hi Nigel

I'll answer your questions as best I can based on the 3 private schools I worked in and the experience of friends in other schools:

No free accommodation, ever. Subsidized if you are employed as a House Parent (i.e. on duty 24-7)

No free tuition for children. Subsidized (normally a 30-40% reduction) which is taxed as a benefit in kind

No private medical insurance

No access to facilities unless you are employed as a House Parent

Free lunch, if you can take the time to queue up with the students (which I normally never had)

Davis Lewis's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 10:57

I live across the road from a private school where the average fee is £30k per year. If I was teaching in such a school I would expect to be handsomely paid otherwise where is this money going? Shane there ust be some perks for working in a private school otherwise why are doing this? And not all state schools are overrun with hooligans, there are grammar schools, very 'good' comprehensives in the shire counties. So why the preference for private schools?

Shane Rae's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 11:16

This is in the range of the yearly tuition for the schools I have taught in. Most of this money will go towards the overhead of running/maintaining stately old buildings and grounds featuring dozens of perfectly manicured football/rugby/cricket pitches etc etc

Are you asking about my 'preference' for private schools? I gravitated towards the Independent sector by the attraction of smaller class sizes and a better overall atmosphere (i.e. more disciplined).

Meanwhile, my wife carried on teaching in our local state school. When the time came to put our own children into school, it was a no-brainer. They went to our village school as it features a closer knit family feel, it's results are better and the children are generally happier.

We fel lucky to have this insight-so we didn't waste our money!

Davis Lewis's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 11:29

Yes that is a 'no brainer' even though some very intelligent people would not necessarily see your decision in the same way. If you are working with smaller classes and less challenging children then I suppose it is reasonable that teachers in the independent sector should be paid less than their counterparts in the state sector. I do wonder if teachers in the independent sector are being underpaid in light of the surplus such schools generate. Just a thought on my part.

Davis Lewis's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 14:24

It would be interesting to look at the balance sheet of your school to see how much of your schools income goes towards maintenance and the running of the school and how much surpus your school actually generates.

Shane Rae's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 11:42

Don't get me wrong, I found the children in Independent schools much more challenging to teach (one of the reasons I left!) than my years teaching in the state sector. In my experience, classes were populated with children who socially didn't 'fit in' in state schools, had a learning or behavioral difference that their parents thought couldn't be managed properly in the state sector and most had a poorly developed set of values.

I should mention that also in my experience any entry requirements could be usurped with cash. But, I digress...

Davis Lewis's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 11:58

I live across the raod from Bedford Modern School and the chuldren are definitely from the higer socio-economic strata jusging from the fees and the avaerage price of the cars dropping off their kids. I do not think these parents have made their choice for any other reason than the fact that they can afford it. In terms of being able to 'social fit' into the state schools, are you saying that they have difficulties mixing with peers who are less affluent?
Its just a shame that we don't have a system where all of our state schools are excellent. We like to cite Finland but they have a government and a culture of of high levels of public investment into delivering high levels of public service. This not embraced by the British, we wnat to keep all of our money in our pockets and sod everyone else as long as I am OK.

Shane Rae's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 12:10

Most of the children I am referring to are from affluent backgrounds and arrive in the cars you describe. However, there is also a sizable percentage of pupils attending private schools who have been placed there by families who by hook or crook (i.e. parents, grand parents, aunts, uncles all chip-in to pay the tuition) under the impression that independent schools offer a kinder, gentler atmosphere in which to learn.

Davis Lewis's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 12:39

£30k a year plus uniforms, sports equipment, excursions, lunch, bus fares that adds up to a lot of money. But yes I know some less than affluent people do make that sacrifice.

Ian Taylor's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 14:17

This indicates that teachers in the private sector are paid more than those in the state sector.

It is complete tosh to say that the average family could scrimp and save to pay school fees of £30K per annum per child. Those who say this are clearly not earning average salaries. Usually those who say it are well off and trying to justify why they are educating their child in the private sector. ("Everyone could do this if they really cared about their child as much as I clearly do. If the chavs stopped smoking that would easily save them £30K per annum to spend on their child. Well that's what my Polish au pair tells me.")

If you believe in what you say Shane, if I were you I would get a job in a state school straight away and enjoy a large salary, huge easy to manage classes, and 100% motivated students. It's surely a doddle. (However, not quite what I found in my 36 years of teaching, although it was very stimulating and rewarding.)

Nigel Ford's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 18:36

This 30k a year for private school fees only relates to public schools, not prep schools, at the top end of the market where the pupils are boarders. A day pupil at one of the most exclusive establishments would only cost half that sum. Still a lot of money and a huge increase in real terms to what private school fees were in the 1980s. I seemed to recall reading it was about £4,500 a year for average public school education as a boarder back in 1984.


Davis Lewis's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 14:22

What are the perks of working in Mossbourne? There must be some incentives.

Shane Rae's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 14:35

The comment made there (on a website designed to attract teachers to Independent schools) is irresponsibly inaccurate. Firstly, no schools wouldn't want to publisize wage scales any more than corporations. The comment made on that website simply doesn't reflect reality.

The families I'm referring to remortgage houses, liquidate pension funds etc. but I agree, the average family could never do this.

As for me, I've left teaching altogether for pastures greener thanks. I spent most of my 20-odd years teaching n the state sector however.

ChrisM's picture
Fri, 03/02/2012 - 22:20

Nigel, old thread I've found googling something else. For the record, I taught 1 year in a HMC school. All the teachers had accommodation provided, no bills. And 3 free meals a day. Salaries were a couple of thousand higher too, I think.

Huge amounts of work though, with it being expected that you'd do a good stint in a boarding house if you stayed long. Housemasters did well not to drop dead. Though it should be said a lot of the work was pointless- ie just to keep kids occupied for fear they wander into town or something heinous. Smaller classes than state schools, of course.

One of the ironies of Govism is that this public school- I guess typically of the sector- was less and less interested in unqualified teachers.

You're dead right about the incredible rise in fees too. They were shooting up in late 80s. To be borne in mind when the "Labour doubled spending" is wheeled out.

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