Teacher pay

Keegan claims teachers are among ‘top 10% of earners’

Education secretary incorrectly claims teacher pay is 'a lot higher' than average, and inflates the average head's salary by £20k

Education secretary incorrectly claims teacher pay is 'a lot higher' than average, and inflates the average head's salary by £20k

Gillian Keegan

The education secretary has claimed teachers are “probably in the top 10 per cent of earners in some parts of the country”, and over-stated the average head’s salary by over £20,000.

Speaking to LBC this morning, Gillian Keegan also claimed teachers’ salaries were “a lot higher than the average salaries across the country”.

But that doesn’t fit with salary data published by the Department for Education. The latest school workforce data shows the average classroom teacher earned £39,000 in 2020-21.

Office for National Statistics data shows the average salary in all occupations was only slightly lower, at £38,131. The mean was used to calculate both figures.

Keegan was quizzed over teacher pay amid ballots for strike action by the National Education Union, NASUWT teachers’ union and NAHT school leaders’ union.

The education secretary pointed to the recent announcement of £2 billion of extra funding for each of the next two years. She also pointed to the increase in starting salaries this year to £28,000. They are due to rise again to £30,000 by 2024.

“The average salary of a classroom teacher is £39,000. That’s the classroom teacher. You get a bit more in London, a bit more in outer London, but that’s the average across the country,” Keegan said.

She also said her 23-year-old cousin had started teaching, and earned a salary of £28,000 while still living with her parents in Knowsley in the north west.

Keegan claims average head earns £95k

Keegan insisted that “the reality is it’s a good career. It’s probably in the top 10 per cent of earners in some parts of the country. Of course there’s always things you can say you can earn more money doing various careers. We know that.”

But even in Knowsley, a salary of £28,000 is below-average, and definitely not in the top 10 per cent of earnings. ONS data shows the area had an average salary of £32,409 in 2021.

When pressed further on low pay, Keegan doubled-down, stating that teachers’ salaries were “a lot higher than the average salaries across the country”, and that “an average head is on £95,000”.

This is also incorrect. DfE workforce data shows the average head earned £74,100 in 2021.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson called Keegan’s comments “staggeringly out-of-touch”, adding she was “clearly complacent about the teacher recruitment and retention crisis happening in our schools”.

“Teachers are leaving the profession in droves because they are overworked and underappreciated by this Conservative government, while potential new recruits are turning away from a career in our classrooms.”

It comes on the same day new ⁠research showed education staff had seen among the lowest pay growth of any industry over the past decade.

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  1. James Little

    It beggars belief that conservative politicians continue to believe teaching is some sort of dream job, well paid and with marvellous terms and conditions yet anyone working in our schools will see a fractured structure struggling to find teachers day to day. Recruitment and retention? Many schools not only struggle to retain their exhausted teachers they can’t find supply teachers either. There is no sense in education that any of our political leaders are even listening to current concerns let alone the slightest bit interested in what the future is very likely to look like.
    Once upon a time the ad line went something like this: ‘There’s never been a better time to be in teaching’ . As an old hand with 3 decades experience there is absolutely no better time to leave…

  2. Roselyne Akinyi

    How is she THE Education secretary without having even the most basic knowledge of simple facts!! Quoting her limited circle of friends and family as her evidence is really encouraging! Where did Sunak get these incompetent people to lead these ministries!

  3. Kenny Barlow

    My wife is a higher level teaching assistant and is hourly paid and is only paid 45 weeks pa. Unison is her union and for teaching assistants agreed a new pay deal in October 22 @3% …why?
    Pay them what they are worth because some teachers can’t do without them.

    • Correction, ALL teachers can’t.do without them!! TAs are an absolute dream in the classroom and 100% should be paid more. Without them we (teachers) can’t do our jobs!! Thank you to your wife for doing what she does 🙂

  4. Jamie Burn

    Gaslighting now reaches the 5th Education secretary this year. Usual nonsense out of touch inaccurate and muck raking. Better to take issue with the 10 pay rises MPs have had over the last 12 years. Add the expenses second jobs and gravy training that all MPs have Keegan is in no place to make comment. 2023 election bring it on.

  5. Why do you think £28,000 starting salary being below average is a problem? They are just starting, so shouldn’t expect above average salary… And the quotes in this article don’t even claim that this salary is in the top 10% of earners.

    Average UK salary for all occupations is £32,000 according to stats not £38,131. So that’s a much bigger difference than you suggested, not to mention the generous benefits in the public sector vs the average worker. Here is an actual source on average salaries by the national office of statistics you mentioned:

  6. Ex Teacher

    When I started training 7 years ago I had a £12,000 grant. I had to get a first class degree in order to receive that amount. If you had a 2:1 you had to train using your own funds to support yourself for the year. Living off of that for a year was horrendous. My rent was £850pcm. The training year was horrible, I ended up seeing my GP for antidepressants. I cried every day. The NQT year was even worse. My pay went up to £22,000 so at the time I felt lucky but I feel cheated now, as only a few years later, new teachers are being offered more. I was being told I had to teach 9 subjects because I was ‘a teacher’ on my contract. So I had to say goodbye to my specialism and run up and down stairs all day to different departments teaching subjects I didn’t know. Having to learn everything the night before for every lesson. I lost my entire soul to the job. I was a shell of a person and spent years without having time to see family or friends because every weekend I was marking and planning. Every year my pay increased slightly as I hit my targets. But I’d see friends with office jobs being paid double my salary, having free time and weekends that were so rare to me. All of them could understand the emotional pull teaching has on someone. Every day there’s a safeguarding issue that you lay awake at night thinking about. There’s a ‘deep dive’ where the leadership team pretend to be ofsted twice a year, the marking policy keeps forever changing so you spend weeks every year producing something that you can use the next year…but it always gets scrapped for the next acronym heavy document the next year.
    I could go on and on… Essentially it took me 7 years to realise that this job just isn’t worth it. You could pay me hundreds of thousands of pounds a year and it’s not worth the stress and anxiety that comes with the job. I’ve lost years of time with family because I just didn’t ‘have the time’ because the job always made it sound like the world would implode if I didn’t get things done. But since leaving….. I’ve found actually it doesn’t.
    I wish the government would invest in the future of this country, the poor children who spend their days in underfunded schools which lack the magic education could offer them. For years now there hasn’t been an education secretary that actually cares or understands the sector they are supposed to govern. If I were lucky enough to be a parent I’d be striking with the teachers for a better future for my child.

    • I like read and like your comment it gave some good insight into the challenges of teaching today. I would caution about the sunlight uplands of ‘office work’ though! In many cases there is weekend work, constant learning at the weekend, hundreds of different tasks which change each year and annual audits of your work which can get you fired if they go wrong. I suspect many of the frustrations you share are down to the behemoth of a large state run system which doesn’t do what’s right for either pupils or teachers.

  7. Hazel Burkett

    Unbelievable will we ever have a decent Education representative in the Government I have been in teaching for 18 years and work in a Special Educational Needs College for 30,000 yet the school over the road for the same job earn £8000 more. I earn less than a post graduate. KEEGAN needs to get her facts right. My pay rise is 3% this year 1.5% the previous year ,5% the previous year. My wages are reducing in real terms and I find it hard to make ends meet living on my own. I do it for the love of my job and the students. But these politicians can’t rely on this forever I can see a General Strike coming up in January and I will be there.

  8. Rob Francis

    Even if teachers do earn more than the average salary, why shouldn’t they? It’s a graduate career! I have a first class honours degree in maths and could easily be on double, if not triple my salary, had I gone into accountancy, rather than teaching. I’d be interested to know what the average graduate employee is earning. I love my job as a maths teacher, but am struggling to keep up with the cost of living.

    • Freya jones

      As an accountant I earn significantly less than I would have had I become a teacher, once the pension is taken into account, with 60 hour weeks minimum expected and that is for 46 weeks a year so not sure where you think you would be earning triple. After 10 years being aca qualified I earn £38k

  9. Kiwi teacher

    Using a Head Teachers salary is a very sly tactic to highlight imoressive but very rare salaries in education. It is the equivalent of saying train drivers can’t complain because the CEO gets £……… .

    As someone new to the country and as an experienced High School Teacher, I feel the salaries are fair if not impressive here in Scotland. However with inflation salaries should logically go up.

    The working conditions on the other hand, are very underwhelming…