Pay in the independent sector

When setting salaries, independent schools are free to determine their own arrangements, so pay systems vary widely.

However, as the dominant employer of teachers, the maintained sector sets a benchmark which most independent schools seek to match or better. Most schools have also devised their own schemes for threshold-style pay.

General advice

Before taking up an appointment at a new school or accepting a new responsibility, ATL members are strongly advised to agree their salary and ensure they understand how they will be paid, asking questions as necessary.

There are three basic things that you need to know about salary:

  • what salary will you start on?

  • what is the school's pay scale and how do you progress up it?

  • is there an annual cost of living increase?

Teachers in independent schools

How a teacher is to be paid will be determined by their individual contract. Some schools 'incorporate' the STPCD or national pay and conditions document into the contract, and pay accordingly. Others give contractual guarantees (eg the school scale will rise by no less than the national pay award each year).

Most schools, however, have adopted a standard pay clause which gives the governing body discretion to set pay rates as it sees fit. ATL and its members try to have this clause changed to give some level of binding guarantee.

Apart from the contract, many schools consult staff before making awards or changing the scales, either on an ad hoc basis or via discussions with established representatives or staff committees.

Some independent schools formally negotiate pay awards with teacher representatives where the schools have recognised ATL for that purpose.

Most teachers are salaried, with pay received in 12-monthly instalments, although some are hourly paid.

Support staff in independent schools

Support staff in independent schools are employed on a range of terms and conditions determined by their individual contracts.

Some schools employ support staff on a term-time-only basis whereby they are paid for the weeks they work, usually 38 or 39, and then have a leave entitlement added on. Some independent schools use the local government pay scale (the scale used throughout the maintained sector) as the basis for paying support staff and also increase salaries by the local government pay award each year.

However, the incremental annual salary rise, which is mandatory in the state sector, is not always incorporated into contracts and if this is the case you will not have an express contractual entitlement to the pay rise.

Other schools have their own salary rates. As with teachers, the details of support staff pay should be included in a written pay policy.

ATL pay and conditions survey

ATL conducts an annual pay and conditions survey of members working in the independent sector. The survey is unique and authoritative and attracts widespread media coverage. The results help identify our members' main concerns for us to campaign on. 

The survey is usually conducted by email in the autumn, with the results embargoed until the ATL Independent Schools Conference in November. There is one survey for teachers and one for support staff. 

In 2013, over 1,800 members took part. See the detailed findings for support staff and teachers.

Written pay policy

Letters of appointment and contracts seldom have the scope to set out salary arrangements in full. ATL recommends that each school has a written pay policy, covering, among other things:

  • the pay scales used by the school

  • annual pay review date

  • rules for increments

  • criteria for performance pay (if used)

  • criteria for extra pay, such as responsibility allowances

  • part-time salaries.

The policy should be clear and comprehensive, and should be applied fairly and consistently to all teaching staff. Ideally, the policy should be a contractual document

Benchmarking against the state maintained sector

It can be useful to benchmark salaries against those in the maintained sector. In addition to the main incremental scale, a teacher in the state maintained sector may be eligible for a variety of other payments, including:

  • teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payments, for classroom teachers who are required to undertake a significant responsibility that is not required of all classroom teachers

  • recruitment and retention payments, which are made for a fixed period and decided by schools themselves

  • Special needs allowances, paid to teachers responsible for special needs students.

Headteachers, deputy headteachers and assistant headteachers in the maintained sector are paid on a separate 43-point pay scale known as the leadership group pay spine.

Headteachers' pay is normally related to the school group size, but governing bodies have the discretion to pay more where it is necessary to recruit and retain headteachers at the most challenging and largest schools. Deputies and assistant heads are paid on a five-point range below that of the headteacher and above the pay of the highest paid classroom teacher.

Advanced Skills Teachers (ASTs) also have a separate pay spine consisting of 18 points that mirror the first 18 points of the leadership pay spine.

The Excellent Teacher Scheme (ETS) offers the most experienced classroom teachers an alternative to teaching and learning responsibility posts, AST grades or leadership group posts. The ETS allows schools to create teaching posts for 'excellent teachers' without the outreach duties that are required of ASTs.

Need further advice?

Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.

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