Confusion about pay scales

A cynic might think that it suits the government to create confusion about pay increases, but whatever your view, it’s clear that this year’s changes have been complex. After years of fairly simple – if small – changes to pay, the soundbites surrounding this year’s changes along with the strange calculations about how it’s worked out have led to some confusion which I’m attempting to clear up here:

Extra funding

The DfE doesn’t have enough detail about which teachers earn what to allow it to make exact calculations at a school level. Having announced that it would fund any increase over 1%, the calculations are not that straightforward. The ‘estimate’ they have used has been calculated by working out roughly how much it will cost nationally, and then sharing the money out between schools based on their size.

This means that a typical 420-pupil primary school will be given an additional sum of nearly £12,000 for the whole year, which is intended to cover the additional increase.

Of course, if that school has lots of staff on the upper and leadership scales who only get the 2%/1.5% rise, it may cover all the costs over 1%; if they have lots of staff on main scale who should be getting 3.5%, it may not.

Which pay points are increasing.

Many people are reporting that only teachers at the bottom/top of each pay scale have been given a pay rise by the government. This is a confusion that stems from a misunderstanding about teachers pay. For 5 years now, the government has only set out minimum and maximum rates for each pay scale. Although as teachers we’re used to talking about points M1 to M6, and U1 to U3, these no longer exist by statute. The government sets out the minimum a newly-qualified teacher can be paid, and the maximum any teacher on the main scale can be paid; everything else in between is for schools to decide – normally based on the recommendation of their local authority. (Of course, many academies will also follow the national approach, so will also have the decision to make, although they can choose completely different pay scales if they prefer)

For that reason, the %age awards this year are only applied by the government to the minimum and maximum of each scale. It is then up to schools/LAs (and academies) to decide how to apply it elsewhere. What that means in practice is set out in some examples here:

  • A teacher on M1 who doesn’t move up to M2 (or its equivalent on its authority’s payscales) will automatically get the 3.5% increase, because the new minimum amount will increase (from £22,917 to £23,729 outside London)
  • A teacher on M1 who is offered a payrise by their school after appraisal or similar, will get whatever pay rise their school/LA policy allows for. For most schools that still means a move to the equivalent of the old M2 point (£24,728), based on the recommended pay scales that the unions publish together. Whether the amount of the M2 payment is increased by 3.5% is up to the LA’s pay policy. The government would argue that they are giving funding for all teachers to increase; an individual school.LA/academy may decide that it can’t afford that increase and take the opportunity to set pay points that are lower than the union recommendations.
  • Although the maximum of the main scale has been raised (from £33,824 to £35,008), it does not mean that all teachers currently paid at the old maximum are entitled to the new maximum. Again, its up to the policy of the local authority or academy trust.

The animation below is an attempt to show the main options for employers:


It would be a very odd choice to increase the pay of those at the top of the scale, while not increasing the pay of those on M5, or its equivalent. But arguably that is a choice open to local authorities & schools.


The fact that this confusion still lingers shows how few local authorities and academy trusts have moved away from the well-understood point system. I’d imagine there is a good likelihood that a majority of authorities will move all teachers up by the respective 3.5% / 2% / 1.5% increases that the government announced.

2 thoughts on “Confusion about pay scales

  1. paulmartin42 22 September 2018 at 10:21 am Reply

    Most are not on or understand the points system ….

  2. Richard 24 September 2018 at 8:16 am Reply

    I would disagree with the above comment; I work in Essex where most schools remain points-system. I am aware that this is in Suffolk and majority of Norfolk also. I feel Michael has captured the issue well: minimum and maximum, if applied, could simply mean squeezing the pay differential between the penultimate and last point progression (and that from the first to the second. Whether it’s points or not – unless a school fully funds an ‘across the board’ increase (which is costly) the whole guidance is reflective of the fact that the system has been fragmented and broken to suit the multitude of different structures out there. The last ‘academies can choose to ignore the recommendations’ is particularly telling….

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