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School teacher pay structure

This Q&A document is a comprehensive overview to the teachers’ pay structure and classroom teachers’ pay scales for 2023-24.

The school teachers’ pay and conditions document (STPCD) contains statutory provisions on teachers’ pay which are binding in all local authority maintained schools. It also contains statutory guidance to which governing bodies and head teachers must ‘have regard’ when taking decisions. The majority of academy trusts incorporate the STPCD into teachers’ employment contracts, meaning that they too are bound by its contents - albeit not statutorily.

The STPCD requires every governing body to have a written school pay policy, setting out the decision-making structure for all pay decisions, including annual pay assessments, discretionary decisions and appeals procedures; the pay scales for teachers; and the criteria to be applied in taking decisions on pay. All decisions should be taken in accordance with the pay policy, which should be reviewed annually (in consultation with teachers and union representatives) and kept up to date. The pay policy should preferably also contain a commitment to fairness, openness, consultation and accountability - the NEU’s own model pay policy includes some useful statements for this purpose.

As a classroom teacher (someone who is not a head teacher, deputy or assistant head teacher or leading practitioner) you will be paid on one of two pay ranges; the main pay range (MPR) and the upper pay range (UPR). Classroom teachers can also access additional payments for a number of reasons including for additional responsibilities.

Since 2013, there have been no mandatory fixed pay points on these ranges, just minimum and maximum values. There are no longer any statutory pay scale points within the teachers’ pay structure. Governing bodies are responsible for determining the value of any pay scale points and the school’s progression criteria based on performance determined with reference to the outcomes of teacher appraisal. The NEU and other unions believe that governing bodies should retain a six-point main pay scale and a three-point upper pay scale. Current information on pay scales

In Wales, performance-related pay has been abolished in favour of experience-related pay progression and national pay scales for Wales have been implemented. The advice below relates to the position in England where performance-related pay has not yet been abolished. Members in Wales should refer to the separate teacher pay arrangements in Wales.

Yes. Provisions giving the right to ‘portability’ of existing or previous pay entitlements have been removed. Previously, if teachers moved school or took a break, they were entitled to be paid in their new job on at least the same pay as before. Governing bodies now have the discretion to pay teachers at any pay rate. The NEU believes that governing bodies should maintain pay portability for newly appointed teachers.

Governing bodies still have a discretionary power to allocate additional scale points for other teaching employment, such as teaching in independent schools, academies, sixth form and further education (FE) colleges or teaching overseas; or other paid or unpaid non-teaching experience. 

The NEU supports allocating one discretionary point on the recommended six-point scale for every one year of teaching employment and one point for every three years of relevant non-teaching experience. In all cases the pay policy should set out the governing body’s criteria for allocating discretionary experience points.

Teachers paid on the UPR are now only entitled to be paid on the UPR while they continue to be employed in that same school. Governing bodies have the discretion to appoint new teachers to the UPR where they have been paid on the UPR at their previous school. As with the MPR, the NEU believes that governing bodies should maintain UPR pay portability for newly appointed teachers. Teachers progressing from the MPR to the UPR will be paid at a point on the UPR in line with the provisions of the school’s pay policy.

Pay progression on the MPR and UPR for teachers in England is based on appraisal - a written recommendation on pay must accompany a teacher's appraisal report.

Governing bodies will decide whether to increase the pay for teachers on the main and upper pay ranges based on appraisal and, if so, by how much - although progression on the UPR can now be permitted every year rather than every two years.

Governing bodies determine the criteria and standards for pay progression, subject only to broad requirements in the STPCD. The STPCD requires that continued good performance should give a classroom teacher “an expectation of progression to the top of their respective pay range”. It also states that “the relevant body must set out clearly in the school’s pay policy how pay progression will be determined” and that “pay increases must be clearly attributable to the performance of the individual teacher”. This does not mean that schools cannot adopt fixed pay scales.

The school pay policy should set out clearly how pay increases are determined. Governing bodies must have regard to the pay policy and the teacher's post within the staffing structure in making pay decisions.

There is no requirement for teachers to apply for pay progression. Governing bodies are required to carry out pay assessments and cannot impose any requirement to complete application forms or refuse progression where teachers decline to do so. There should be no restrictions on pay progression on the basis of funding.

The NEU pay model policy contains model provisions on pay progression which schools are asked to adopt. The NEU advises that teachers should be awarded pay progression on the MPR following a successful appraisal review; and be awarded progression on the UPR having regard to no more than the two most recent appraisal reviews. Reviews should be deemed successful unless significant concerns about standards of performance were raised in writing with the teacher concerned during the annual appraisal cycle and have not been sufficiently addressed through support provided by the school by the conclusion of that process.

Any qualified teacher on the MPR can apply to be paid on the UPR.

The STPCD provides that for an application to be successful, the relevant body must be satisfied that the teacher is “highly competent in all elements of the relevant standards; and that the teacher’s achievements and contribution to an education setting or settings are substantial and sustained”. Teachers who apply successfully to be paid on the UPR will be paid at a rate on the range decided by the school. The right to be paid on the UPR only applies while employed in that school.

Applications for ‘threshold assessment’, as it is known, continue to be voluntary. Head teachers are required to consider applications against the statutory requirements set out in the STPCD, criteria set by the governing body and the outcomes of appraisal. The school governing body determines the deadline for receipt of applications and who can apply for an assessment. These should be set out clearly in the school pay policy.

The NEU strongly advises all eligible teachers to apply for threshold assessment. In recent years, half of eligible teachers have been failing to apply even though the large majority who do apply succeed in their applications.

Teaching and learning responsibility payments (TLRs) reward additional leadership and management responsibilities undertaken by classroom teachers. Governing bodies determine the overall number of TLR payments available in the school, and the levels and values of those payments.

The STPCD provides three payment bands, TLR1, TLR2 and TLR3, which govern the values of the payments. Governing bodies can establish more than one level of TLR payment within each band as well as the value of the payments at each level. There is no longer any prescribed minimum differential between each level of TLR payment in a school.

The STPCD sets out criteria for TLR payments. In order to qualify for any TLR payment, teachers must undertake a “significant responsibility… not required of all classroom teachers” in relation to the leadership and management of teaching and learning. In order to qualify for a TLR1 payment, teachers’ duties must include in addition “line management responsibility for a significant number of people”. TLR3 payments must be fixed-term payments for “clearly time-limited school improvement projects, or one-off externally driven responsibilities”.

TLR payments are payable for different purposes and under different criteria to special educational needs (SEN) allowances and recruitment/retention payments. Some teachers may be eligible to receive TLR payments and also SEN allowances and recruitment/retention payments.

TLR1 and TLR2 payments should be allocated on a permanent basis, so that teachers continue to receive the payments unless they leave the school or responsibilities are reorganised. TLR1 and TLR2 payments should not be allocated on a temporary basis other than in circumstances such as cover for sickness, maternity or secondment or pending a permanent appointment.

Although a teacher cannot hold more than one TLR1 or TLR 2 payment, it is possible for a post carrying a TLR payment to involve a single job description comprising several different areas of significant responsibility. Teachers can however receive one or more TLR3 payments in addition to a TLR1 or TLR2 payment.

The values of the bands and individual TLR payments are usually increased in line with the general increase in pay scales. For 2022-2023 in England, the lower band, TLR2, is set at £3,017 to £7,368, while the higher band, TLR1, is set at £8,706 to £14,732. The more recently introduced TLR3 payment must be no less than £600 and no greater than £2,975. A school can decide to establish as many levels of TLR payment in each band as it wishes.

In Wales, TLR 2 range is £3,071 - £7,497. The range for TLR 1 is set at £8,859 to £14,990. The fixed term TLR 3 range is £611 to £3,028.

The duration of TLR3 payments must be established at the outset. These must be for “clearly time-limited school improvement projects or one-off externally driven responsibilities” (2022 STPCD, para 20.3).

The STPCD provides that teachers may receive special educational needs (SEN) allowances in respect of certain work with children with special needs.

Payments on the SEN (England) and additional learning needs (ALN in Wales) allowance range must be made to teachers in special schools or in SEN/ALN posts requiring a mandatory SEN/ALN qualification and to teachers teaching pupils with SEN/ALN in designated special classes/units or local authority (LA) services/units. Payments must also be made to teachers in mainstream schools or pupil referral units (PRUs) where the setting is “analogous to a designated special class or unit” and the post meets specified criteria referring to substantial direct work with children with SEN/ALN beyond that normally required of teachers in the school or service/unit.

SEN/ALN allowances are determined by the governing body, taking into account: the structure of the school’s SEN/ALN provision; any qualifications and expertise relevant to the post; and the relative demands of the post. The STPCD advises that a teacher who teaches a special class for which a mandatory qualification is required and who also has considerable experience and expertise would be more likely to be paid towards the top end of the range. The STPCD statutory guidance makes it clear that SEN/ALN allowances can be held at the same time as TLRs.

Teachers who meet the statutory criteria can receive an appropriate allowance ranging from a minimum of £2,384 and a maximum of £4,703 (England), commensurate with their skills and experience in the role. In Wales, the ALN range is set at £2,426 to £4,786.

Unqualified teachers are not eligible for TLR payments or SEN/ALN allowances but can be paid additional responsibility allowances.

The STPCD provides a minimum and maximum value for the overall leadership pay range, and also minimum and maximum pay rates for head teachers for each of the eight school groups.

Individual pay ranges for head teachers and for deputy and assistant head teachers are determined by the governing body. They may be of whatever length the governing body deems appropriate and may or may not include fixed scale points.

The individual pay range for head teachers should be set within the overall leadership pay range and within the pay ranges for the relevant school group. The individual pay range for deputy and assistant head teachers may be located anywhere within the overall leadership pay range (subject to certain caveats as set out below).

Department for Education (DfE) advice for schools sets out a three-stage process for governing bodies to follow in setting the pay for head teachers and other leadership group

teachers. When determining an individual pay range, the governing body should take into account “all of the permanent responsibilities of the role, any challenges specific to the role and all other relevant considerations”. For that reason, the provision for additional discretionary payments to head teachers has been restricted (see below).

The governing body should also allow appropriate scope within the individual pay range for performance-based pay progression. Leadership teachers can be allocated recruitment and retention allowances and payments for involvement in continuing professional development (CPD), initial teacher education (ITE) and out-of-hours learning activity. Additional provisions give guidance on payments in circumstances where head teachers have charge of more than one school, on a permanent or acting basis or take on additional responsibilities outside the school.

The STPCD permits discretionary payments only for “clearly temporary [additional] responsibilities or duties” which have not previously been taken into account in setting the individual pay range. These payments are limited to 25 per cent of pay other than in "wholly exceptional circumstances" (excluding payments for residential duties or for relocation purposes).

Governing bodies are required to document decisions clearly and also ensure they have oversight of all contractual arrangements and income streams applying to head teachers.

Head teachers already in receipt of discretionary payments which would not be payable under the new provisions should continue to receive them until their individual pay range is reassessed (ie they move post or their role changes significantly). Such discretionary payments should be payable in defined and limited circumstances, and for legitimate purposes.

Where governing bodies wish to make such payments, they should carefully follow the statutory provisions and be cautious in determining that payments are justified and are of appropriate value.

The STPCD continues to require governing bodies to undertake pay assessments each year for all qualified teachers, including leadership teachers. As with other teachers, there is no requirement for leadership teachers to apply for progression within their pay ranges.

Assessments should be carried out, as at 1 September each year and progression is a permanent entitlement while the teacher remains in the same post. The STPCD provides that governing bodies determine the criteria for pay progression. While decisions must be related to performance, the school pay policy should set out the precise criteria for pay progression.

The STPCD includes an expectation that “sustained high quality of performance… should give an expectation of progression”. The governing body is required to “have regard” to the appraisal reviewer’s pay recommendation and the provisions of the STPCD, statutory guidance and pay policy. In the case of the head teacher, the governors responsible for their performance review continue to provide the pay recommendation.

The governing body also determines the level of any pay increase. The NEU believes that decisions on pay progression should form part of a whole school approach. Leadership teachers may meet the necessary standards without having had to meet all appraisal targets in full. Decisions not to allocate pay progression should not preclude the review of pay for other reasons such as increases in responsibilities.

The leading practitioners pay range is for teaching posts “whose primary purpose is modelling and leading improvement of teaching skills”.

The STPCD sets out minimum and maximum values for payment on the range. There are no national criteria for appointment to such posts and governing bodies determine the pay ranges, having regard to the challenge and demands of the post and internal pay relativities.

Progression on the leading practitioners pay range is based on the same system as for the main and upper pay ranges. Leading practitioners are not subject to the working time provisions for classroom teachers.

The STPCD provides that a governing body may make “such payments… as it considers necessary” to any teachers, for recruitment and retention purposes. Any such payments may be made either as a one-off payment or for a fixed period.

Head teachers, deputy head teachers and assistant head teachers may only be awarded such payments as reimbursement of “reasonably incurred housing or relocation costs”, since other recruitment/retention considerations should be reflected in the individual pay range.

The previous three-year limit on recruitment and retention payments has been replaced by a requirement for relevant bodies to conduct a "regular formal review" of such awards including their expected duration and the review date after which they can be withdrawn.

While recruitment and retention payments have come in for some criticism due to the extent to which they may reduce transparency within the pay structure, it is recognised that some governing bodies may wish to use them in response to local recruitment and retention difficulties. In such cases, payments should be made only according to clearly defined criteria set out in the school pay policy.

Such payments may justifiably be used to avoid pay losses for teachers who would lose pay due to the end of safeguarding as this would help retention of teachers who might otherwise seek employment elsewhere.

The STPCD permits governing bodies to make such payments as they see fit to any teachers, including leadership teachers, in respect of CPD undertaken outside the school day, out-of-school-hours learning activities and initial teacher training (ITT) activities.

For full-time classroom teachers, payment can only be made for activities undertaken outside directed time. The STPCD statutory guidance advises that appropriate levels of payment and circumstances in which payments will be made should be set out in the school pay policy, which should be reviewed annually.

Classroom teachers’ participation in such activities is voluntary (ie optional as opposed to unpaid). There should be no pressure, direct or indirect, to become involved. The STPCD statutory guidance states that “participation in CPD outside of directed time is voluntary and cannot be directed”; that teachers must “agree to participate in out-of-school-hours learning”; and that “teachers undertaking school-based ITT activities do so on an entirely voluntary basis” unless they are leading practitioners who may be required to do so.

All teachers, including head teachers, who undertake such activities should receive additional payment at a daily or hourly rate calculated with reference to the teacher’s actual pay spine position or, where appropriate, at a higher level reflecting the responsibility and size of commitment.

The STPCD provides that, where a teacher carries out the duties of head teacher, deputy head teacher or assistant head teacher on a temporary basis, the governing body must consider within four weeks of the commencement of those duties whether the teacher should be paid an acting allowance as a separate addition to normal pay.

This provision does not apply where the teacher is formally appointed on a temporary basis as an acting head or acting deputy head. In such cases, teachers should be appointed to the leadership pay spine on the usual basis for such posts for the duration of their acting appointment. Decisions on whether an acting allowance should be paid, and from what date, are at the discretion of the governing body.

While they are paid acting allowances, teachers are subject to the conditions of service of the posts in which they are acting up.

The NEU advises that acting allowances should be paid in all cases, backdated to the day the teachers assumed these duties. No pressure, direct or indirect, should be placed on teachers to act up where the decision to agree to act up is voluntary on their part.

The STPCD provides that part-time teachers’ pay scale position should be calculated on the same basis as if they were employed full-time. They should be paid on a pro rata basis according to the proportion of the school timetabled teaching week for which they are employed.

Part-time teachers are entitled to pay progression and to receive TLR payments, SEN allowances and recruitment and retention payments on the same basis as full-time teachers. All part-time teachers should consult the NEU’s more detailed guidance on the website in order to ensure fairness in terms of pay and working time.

Supply teachers employed directly by local authorities or governing bodies are subject to the provisions of the STPCD. Their pay and pay progression must be determined on the same basis as classroom teachers in regular employment. They are entitled to be paid 1/195 of the appropriate annual pay rate for each day’s employment.

The NEU advises that pay for less than a day should be calculated with reference to an hourly rate derived from dividing the daily rate by the number of hours in the school day at that school, lunch periods excluded. The pay of supply teachers employed via agencies is not subject to the provisions of the STPCD; their pay is determined by the agency concerned.

The STPCD includes an unqualified teacher pay range. Like the main and upper pay ranges, it has only a minimum and maximum value. Governing bodies determine the pay of unqualified teachers and the number and value of pay scale points within the pay range.

Governing bodies may determine the starting pay for newly appointed unqualified teachers by reference to any experience they deem to be relevant. Pay progression is based on the same system for the main and upper pay range. If such teachers move school or take a break, they are no longer automatically entitled to be paid on at least the same pay point as before.

Unqualified teachers are not eligible for TLR payments or SEN allowances but can be paid additional responsibility allowances. They can be paid recruitment and retention allowances and payments for involvement in CPD, ITE and out-of-hours learning activities.

An unqualified teacher becoming qualified must be paid at least on the next point on the MPR above the sum of that teacher’s unqualified pay including any allowance paid.

Governing bodies may choose to pay unqualified teachers on an employment-based route to qualified teacher statues (QTS) as qualified teachers or unqualified teachers. The NEU supports their payment as qualified teachers, with all other unqualified teachers paid on the unqualified teachers’ range. Teachers with the FE sector’s qualified teacher learning and skills (QTLS) status are recognised as qualified teachers in schools and do not need to apply formally for QTS.

There are separate and higher pay scales for the Inner London, Outer London and Fringe areas in place of separate additional area allowances.

The Inner London area comprises Barking & Dagenham; Brent; Camden; City of London; Ealing; Greenwich; Hackney; Hammersmith & Fulham; Haringey; Islington; Kensington & Chelsea; Lambeth; Lewisham; Merton; Newham; Southwark; Tower Hamlets; Wandsworth; and Westminster.

The Inner London differential at the maximum of the pay ranges is just under £6000 on the Main Pay Range and over £9000 on the Upper Pay Range.

The Outer London differential is around £4300 at the maximum of the pay ranges.

The Fringe Area comprises Bracknell Forest, Slough, Windsor & Maidenhead in Berkshire; South Bucks and Chiltern in Buckinghamshire; Basildon, Brentwood, Epping Forest, Harlow and Thurrock in Essex; Broxbourne, Dacorum, East Herts, Hertsmere, St Albans, Three Rivers, Watford and Welwyn Hatfield in Hertfordshire; Dartford and Sevenoaks in Kent; the whole of Surrey; and Crawley in West Sussex.

The Fringe Area differential is just over £1200 at the maximum of the pay ranges.

The STPCD requires that the governing body should establish, as part of the school’s pay policy, procedures to deal with teachers’ grievances in relation to their pay. DfE advice to schools covers the issue of managing pay appeals in more detail including a model appeals procedure. Procedures for appeals against pay decisions established by schools must meet the requirements of employment law.

Detailed NEU advice on pay appeals

The STPCD contains provisions for teachers to receive pay safeguarding where they suffer pay losses in a range of different circumstances, including where they have lost their previous posts as a result of closure or amalgamation of their previous school or as a result of internal reorganisation in their school.

Safeguarding arrangements now operate on the basis of a maximum period of three years’ pay protection. Safeguarding in place before 1 January 2006 continues as a permanent entitlement.

Safeguarding may in some circumstances end earlier than the three-year period and teachers entitled to safeguarding in excess of £500 may be required to undertake additional responsibilities “commensurate with the safeguarded sum” during the period of safeguarding.

More detailed NEU guidance on safeguarding considers issues such as when pay safeguarding may arise, when safeguarding can end and further information on ‘additional duties’.

Further NEU guidance on school teachers’ pay and pay advice for teachers working in sixth form colleges: 

The school teachers’ pay & conditions document

The school teachers’ pay and conditions (Wales) document

See also advice for teachers employed as Soulbury officers.

See the NEU pay pages – including the model pay policy and pay policy checklist.

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