The Knowledge

How do workforce views differ on pay and conditions?

New data reveals who is most – and least – satisfied with their pay, their workload and the resources at their disposal

New data reveals who is most – and least – satisfied with their pay, their workload and the resources at their disposal

22 Mar 2024, 5:00

Schools in England employ almost one million individuals on a full-time equivalent basis. While the recruitment and retention of teachers quite rightly receives a great deal of attention, this group only accounts for half the school workforce. The remainder encompasses teaching assistants, back-office staff and those providing pastoral support – all also vital to the efficient operation of a school.

Unfortunately, most research into school working conditions only captures the views of teachers, with other staff somewhat of an afterthought. Yet it would be almost unthinkable to measure working environments in hospitals by only surveying doctors, ignoring nurses, physios, etc.

In a new academic paper, I attempt to address this discrepancy by investigating how school staff working in different roles differ in their views of pay, resources and workload.

The paper is informed by data captured by The Engagement Platform (TEP), which collects termly data from all members of school staff. It focuses on answers to three questions answered by around 6,000 staff in November 2023. Respondents answered these by using 0 to 10 rating scale:

  • I believe my total compensation (e.g. including both pay and other benefits) is fair, relative to those with similar responsibilities and experience within this school.
  • I have the resources and equipment that I need to do my job effectively.
  • I feel happy about my work-life balance.

Table 1 illustrates how school staff in different roles differ in their views of their pay and the resources available to them. Green and red indicate more or less favourable responses.

It shows that staff in different roles have rather different concerns. Teachers are more likely to believe their pay is fair (average score 7.1) than any other member of staff, including middle leaders. Teaching assistants are least likely to feel this is the case (average score of 6.3).

On the other hand, teachers tend to be among the least satisfied in terms of the resources available to them to do their job effectively (average score of 7.1), while office staff (average score of 8.3) and those in pastoral support roles (average of 8.0) view this much more favourably.

Figure 1 provides a similar comparison regarding workload. Each data point refers to one school in the sample. Figures along the horizontal axis refer to the average work-life balance score awarded by teachers, while those on the vertical axis are for staff working in other roles. The dashed line illustrates where the responses are equal.

There are two key points to note.

First, the data points for almost every school sit above the dashed line. This means that in almost every school teachers are less satisfied with their work-life balance than other members of staff.

Second, the correlation between the views of teaching and non-teaching staff is relatively weak (0.25). The upshot of this is that in schools where teachers have greatest concerns over work- life balance, other members of staff do not necessarily feel the same way. For instance, in one school, auxiliary staff report having a fantastic work-life balance (10 out of 10) while teachers take the exact opposite view (averaging 4 out of 10).

Across the sector, there is much discussion of the challenges teachers face, and what more can be done to improve their retention.

While this is no doubt important, we must not allow a lack of research to lull us into forgetting the distinct views and concerns of other members of staff.

This research shows that staff retention is unlikely to have a one-size-fits-all solution. Moreover, it hints at the sorts of policies that could be more successful with certain groups. Getting it right will require schools leaders and policy makers to better monitor and understand the distinct views of this diverse workforce.

To discuss this research and its implications in more detail, join my free webinar hosted by TEP on 1 May. Register here to take part

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