Graduates face 20 per cent pay gap if they choose teaching


Figures show classroom pay is lagging behind that of other graduate professions, sparking concerns that teaching can no longer compete. Pete Henshaw takes a look.

Major graduate recruiters are offering almost 20 per cent more in average earnings than the current starting point on the teachers’ main pay range.

Furthermore, the average level of pay increases offered by the leading graduate recruiters during the first five years are by far outstripping what schools can offer.

The stark pay gap has sparked fears that schools are struggling to compete against other graduate professions when it comes to recruiting teachers, especially in shortage areas such as STEM.

The figures have been revealed in a report by Incomes Data Services (IDS), commissioned by the NASUWT. The report is based on comparisons between teachers’ remuneration and that of selected graduate professions including science, engineering, health professionals, legal professionals, accountancy, business analysts and chartered surveyors.

It shows that in 2013, graduate starting salaries in the private sector averaged £26,457 a year. This included £29,798 in the finance and law sector, £25,886 in manufacturing, and £24,926 in retail and service.

In contrast, for teachers outside London the starting point on the basic classroom teachers’ main pay range (M1) was £21,804 in 2013.

The report also finds that pay progression in the private sector is much more attractive than that for teachers. 

Teachers with three years’ service (M4 on the main pay range) have what the report calls a “salary lead” of 25.6 per cent – this represents how much more money they are earning than those graduates just entering the profession (on point M1).

However, after three years, graduates in the other professions studied in the report have a salary lead of 44.3 per cent.

This pattern is repeated after five years in the job, when teachers (on M6) have a salary lead of 46.2 per cent over those on M1 but graduates in the other professions have a salary lead of 73.6 per cent.

The report states: “...graduate average salaries have risen 73 per cent faster than (those of) school teachers three years after recruitment and 59.3 per cent faster after five years.”

The report looks back to 1998 and found that between then and 2002, teachers received higher general salary increases than other groups. However, since then – with the exception of 2009 and 2010 – pay awards for teachers have lagged behind.

The report points out that while the “whole economy pay award” has been two per cent in each of 2011, 2012 and 2013, and 2.5 per cent in 2014, teachers received no general salary increase in either 2011 or 2012, and one per cent in each of 2013 and 2014.

Other factors include a rise in the numbers of jobs requiring graduate skills. The report states: “The continued growth in jobs for managers, professionals and associated occupations will be taking place at a time when the rise in the number of students going through UK higher education seems to have come to an end, pointing to tougher competition to recruit the most able.”

The School Teachers’ Review Body has often warned of the need to ensure teachers’ salaries are competitive. In 2008 it stated: “We are particularly conscious of the relative position of the profession and its ability to compete with other employers in recruiting and retaining high-quality staff. 

“If the teachers’ pay structure is too low relative to the wider market, this could, over time, create problems with recruitment, retention, morale, motivation and the quality of teaching.”

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “Teaching has moved from being the number one choice for graduates in 2010 to one now where graduates are increasingly looking to other higher paid professions. There is already a recruitment and retention crisis in the education service. The stark differences in graduate pay highlighted in our research will unfortunately mean this crisis will worsen.

“Children and young people are entitled to be taught by qualified teachers who are recognised and rewarded as highly skilled professionals. The widening pay gap between teaching and other graduate professions is putting children’s entitlement to a high-quality education at risk.”


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