Teachers feel severely underpaid and are worried about keeping up with their household bills, according to a new survey from the National Education Union.
A snapshot survey of 4,536 NEU teacher and leadership NEU members working in English state-funded schools, carried out in November 2023, found that:
- 85% say they are underpaid, given their skills, qualifications, and workload. Only 7% say their pay is fair.
- 56% are either “very” or “extremely” worried about keeping up with household bills and finances. A further 39% say they are “a little” worried about meeting bills.
Between September 2010 and September 2023, the cost of living as measured by RPI rose by 68%. Over the same period, pay for experienced teachers outside the London region rose by just 27%. Given this, teachers have suffered deep and lasting real-terms pay cuts on any measure.
Teachers overwhelmingly feel underpaid
Six out of seven teachers (85%) disagreed with the sentence “My pay is fair, given my skills, qualifications, and workload”. Some 40% of members disagreed with the statement, and a further 45% strongly disagreed. Only 7% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.
A feeling of unfairness on pay persists across all NEU member groups. Some 87% of primary and state-funded nursery members disagreed with the statement, compared to 84% of secondary teachers and 77% of teachers in special schools and pupil referral units (PRUs).
Members are deeply concerned about household bills
Over half (56%) of teachers are either “very” or “extremely” worried about keeping up with their household bills and finances over the next year. Over a quarter (28%) described themselves as “very worried”, and a further 28% said they were “extremely worried”. Another 39% described themselves as “a little bit worried”, meaning that 95% of all respondents expressed some level of concern about meeting their bills. Only 5% said they were not concerned at all.
The highest levels of concern (“very” and “extremely” worried) are higher in London than elsewhere in the country, and a little lower among those aged over 50 than those in other age groups. However, in every age group and every region, these two most negative responses comprised over half of all those answering the survey.
Commenting on the findings of this snapshot survey, Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"This survey once again highlights the damage done by Government attacks on teacher pay since 2010. Teachers are right to feel undervalued, given their skills, professionalism and the level of responsibility they bear in educating children and young people. Teachers are understandably worried about their household bills, given that sky-high inflation in 2022 and 2023 has baked in significantly higher price levels.
"Since 2010 teachers’ pay has declined significantly, relative to other workers and in real terms against inflation. Pay levels do not properly value teachers. This creates major recruitment and retention problems. Teacher living standards have been hammered over a period of more than a decade. This is no way to value teachers.
"We need an urgent, properly funded and major correction in teacher pay – not only to stop teachers worrying about how to pay their bills, but also to protect our education service by fixing the recruitment and retention crisis. This essential correction in pay is therefore in the interests not only of teachers themselves, but also of parents and children."
The survey was conducted by text message between 2-3 November 2023. We received responses from 4,536 NEU members working in teaching and leadership grades in English state-funded schools. We then reweighted the responses line with national figures to control for gender, region, phase, age and level of deprivation in schools as measured by proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM).