Teaching in London is a rewarding and unique opportunity for many teachers. With the draws of living and working in a world capital, great schools and the added reassurance of salary weighting, is it a no-brainer for those eager to have a long-term career in teaching? 

It seems to be the contrary, with more teachers leaving London each year, and the price of rented accommodation pricing young public sector workers out of the capital

Even though the subject of teacher workload is often quoted as being one of the main causes of teacher retention, teacher pay, specifically for those working in London will become a major issue in future years.

What does London salary weighting currently look like?

If you teach in a maintained school in England, you will be paid accordingly to nationally agreed pay scale, as outlined in the 2019 School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD). If you teach in an academy, free school or independent school, your pay will be set according to your school’s pay policy. 

The salaries of qualified classroom teachers working in maintained schools in England will fall within the Main Pay Range (MPR) or the Upper Pay Range (UPR). These reflect the variation in cost of living across the country, with a premium for those working in inner, outer or fringe areas of London. Annual salaries for the pay ranges are as follows:

Annual salary for teachers in maintained schoolsEngland (excluding London areas)London Fringe areaOuter London areaInner London area
Main Pay Range (MPR)Min£24,373£25,543£28,355£30,480
Max£35,971£37,152£40,035£41,483
Upper Pay Range (UPR)Min£37,654£38,797£41,419£45,731
Max£40,490£41,635£44,541£49,571

So, if you are teaching on the main pay range in the inner London area on £35,000 your take home pay after Teachers’ Pensions and student loan deductions (if applicable) would roughly be just below £2,000. According to the London Assembly, the average price of a one-bedroom rental property in inner London is £1,300. 

The London Assembly is aware of the issue, pledging to support teachers with homes ‘for middle income Londoners, like teachers, who can’t afford to buy a home on the open market’. Surely this must be a concern for the future, if teachers are unable to purchase homes without government subsidised schemes such as London Shared Ownership. Especially come to retirement age if a large proportion of public sector workers in the capital don’t own their homes.

How long has London weighting existed?

London weighting was first introduced by the Civil Service in the 1920s. Geir Darge provides a useful summary on the history of London weighting, he explains that:

“In 1974 … a report carried out by the Pay Board concluded living within 4 miles of Charing Cross dramatically pushed up an individual’s living expenses and to avoid labour shortages, employers should offer some form of compensation.

Why was this felt so acutely in the mid-70s? It might have had something to do with the boom and then bust in trading the City had felt. In 1973-1974 there was a market crash that plunged the UK into a decade-long recession. In an attempt to tackle this, one of the measures introduced by the UK government was to abolish rent freeze in 1974.

The soaring rents that followed, combined with the typically high prices in London meant living in The City was next to impossible, particularly for public service workers and manual labourers. Many resisted the call to increase wages at first, however, the labour shortages and retention crisis that preceded 1974 forced almost all organisations to offer some form of London compensation.”

Housing reform in London

Salaries are not keeping pace with rising accommodation costs. This is applicable to all public and private sector workers in England, especially those in the South East and in London. Even with the salary uplift, long-term, teachers who train and work in London throughout their careers will be economically worse off by the age of retirement taking into account the rising costs of accommodation.

Last year I wrote an article outlining how long it would take the average teacher to save for the average house deposit. It’s quite a long time, and would take even longer in London!

Sir Dan Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation of academies, has previously told TES that “if someone doesn’t do something, there will be no public sector workers left in London”.

Teachers will probably not be surprised that the civil servants setting teachers’ pay will be paid more than them. Looking at the latest accounts published by the DfE even ‘junior staff’ are paid more than the majority of teachers on the MPS in inner London. So potentially there is a disconnect between the policy makers and the issue at hand.

There could be calls to increase the London salary weighting but it would be interesting to see more innovative approaches to the problem. 

With the government carefully balancing the books, there are a couple of approaches which could save the DfE with recruitment, supply, long-term sickness absence and retention costs in the long-term. A couple of suggestions include:

  • Housing specifically for school staff on low and middle income salaries at a subsidised cost. Harris has commissioned a construction firm which has identified “six or seven” sites where there is land “surplus to the play[ground] requirements” on which housing units could be built. With early career teachers close to the schools they work in, it would improve recruitment and retention costs in the long-term saving government costs. Many independent school teachers take up accommodation on the school site, could we not see a similar approach to state schools, even if it is just within the same vicinity of the school? Especially for teachers in their early 20s where it could be a draw to work in London, and more likely to stay in the profession if they are not contending with tight financial margins. The cost just to recruiting, retaining and other factors such as reduced long-term sick pay/supply costs etc would be significant.
  • An accommodation grant or low-interest loan. This would be separate to the base salary. This would alleviate financial concerns during those key first five years when teachers are deciding to stay in the profession
  • Regional pay across local authorities. In England we are in a unique situation (by international comparisons) of having increased salary weighting for teachers working in the capital. In other countries there are more complex regional variations, such as in Canada and Germany where pay is calculated regionally. In fact, teaching salaries in Berlin remain well below those in other parts of Germany. The city-state of Hamburg pays its young teachers more, and even helps them find a flat. Meanwhile the state of Baden-Wurttemberg is offering teachers up to 600 Euros more per month for less work than teachers do in their first year in Berlin. Even domestically, teachers in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh, even though devolved from the DfE, do not receive a salary uplift living in their respective capitals. Housing and living expenses are high in London (as they are in Oxford and Cambridge) but is there a more nuanced way of setting teacher pay scales and salary banding across England?

I don’t pretend to have the solutions to this problem, but it needs to be prioritised sooner rather than later. I believe housing and accommodation needs to be looked at separately from teachers’ base salaries in London and will need intervention if we want experienced and the most effective teachers to stay in the profession.

If you would like to find out more information on teachers’ pay and conditions, you can read our articles in our Knowledge Base.

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