Teacher with pupils in music room

Pay in the independent sector

As private businesses outside the national collective bargaining structure in the maintained sector, independent schools have greater freedom to set their own terms and conditions of employment.

Pay and other remuneration can vary widely from school to school and, in some cases, from employee to employee in the same school. Some independent schools provide financial rewards for teachers that are far higher than in the state-maintained sector; others offer poor pay and conditions of employment. While support staff pay varies, it tends to be more uniform than the range seen for teachers. 

The most effective way to influence pay is by acting collectively as the NEU. An important aspect to this, is submitting an annual NEU pay claim [see below for our practical toolkit]. NEU encourages all independent school memberships to submit an annual pay claim. 

Your influence and impact will also be enhanced by liaison and coordination with other NEU school memberships. 

We encourage all NEU school reps to join our rep networks, including the Independent Schools Reps Whatsapp Community, and make use of the NEU independent sector Pay Dashboard.


Making a pay claim

A toolkit for independent members on how and when to submit a collective pay claim.

Collective bargaining

How to negotiate on pay in the independent sector, with some relevance to further education workplaces or academies where there is collective bargaining. 

The contract

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?

Your level of pay will usually be agreed on appointment but how it increases after that will usually be determined by your individual contract of employment and any supplementary documents, such as a pay policy. The level of your current salary is important as is a pay scale and knowing how you will progress up that scale.

While most independent schools have pay scales, a small minority do not. If your school operates a system of spot salaries, consider a joint approach with NEU colleagues to the management to seek to negotiate a policy with a salary scale, in which salary awards are transparent and reward hard work and achievement.

The provision to increase salaries each year to take account of inflation should be in the contract. Many schools adopt a standard pay clause which gives the governing body discretion to set pay rates as it sees fit.

NEU is strongly against such clauses as they are one-sided, do not provide for fair and reasonable pay awards, nor give staff any binding guarantees. Some independent schools in England and Wales ‘incorporate’ the school teachers’ pay and conditions document (STPCD), the annual statutory pay document applicable in the maintained sector, into the contract. These schools need to have a pay policy which shows how the school will exercise the discretions allowed for in the STPCD.

Most teachers are salaried, with pay received in 12 monthly instalments, although some are paid hourly. Some support staff are paid on term-time only contracts. Schools tend to use broadly similar formulas to calculate salaries which take into account the proportion of full-time hours worked as well as the term-time only aspect. The salary is usually divided by 12 and paid in equal monthly instalments throughout the year to ensure that the employee receives regular payments.

In essence, a term-time only contract means that an employee is only employed when the school is open, in most cases for 38 or 39 weeks a year. Employees on term-time only contracts are entitled to paid leave; this entitlement is usually added on to the weeks worked to establish the overall salary. For example, a school which is open for 39 weeks and provides a leave entitlement of five weeks would employ you for a total of 44 weeks in a year. This would be worked out in salary terms as a proportion of the number of weeks in the year. The annual salary would therefore be 44/52ths of the full-time salary for the post.

By law, full-time employees are entitled to a minimum of 28 days of paid annual leave per year, inclusive of bank holidays. Part-time staff are entitled to the same minimum of paid leave, but on a pro rata basis. One of the problems with term-time only posts is that the salary is often advertised at the full 52-week rate. It is important to look carefully at the details of a post, at all stages of the process, when applying for a position.

Term-time only contracts create a disparity in schools. The NEU's view is that independent schools should provide full-year contracts for all staff.

Written pay policy

The NEU recommends that every independent school should have a written pay policy in place. It should be clear, comprehensive and applied fairly and consistently across the school workforce. Ideally, the policy should be a contractual document. Among other things, it should include: 

  • the pay scales used by the school
  • the annual pay review date
  • the rules for increment
  • the criteria for performance-related pay (if used)
  • the criteria for extra pay (such as responsibility allowances), pro rata part-time salaries, any procedure you need to follow before your pay is reviewed and an appeal process if you are unhappy with the outcome of the review.

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 that 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.

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

Head teachers' 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 head teachers at the most challenging and largest schools. Deputies and assistant heads are paid on a five-point range below that of the head teacher 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.

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