Headteacher Pay: England Vs Scotland

Given today’s Scotland Vs England world cup rugby fixture (we’ll not refer to the result) I thought it might be of interest to try to compare headteacher pay between the two countries.

The English pay scales are set out in  Pay and Conditions for Teachers in England Wales and I’ll use this document as the basis for what follows.

In this example I will  use a secondary school of 900 students, split equally into six year groups of 150 students..

The English system is based upon the concept of pupil units.

For example a student in Key Stage 3 – equivalent to S1 – S2 (12-14 yrs) – is worth 9 units; a student in Key Stage 4  (14-16 yrs)  is worth 11 units; and a student in Key Stage 5 (16-18 yrs) is worth 13 units.

Using the 150 students in each year group this translates into 9,900 units.

The units are then compared to a school group table – for the sake of this exercise I’m only going to refer to the scales for schools outwith the London area.

The scales are:

Group                             Pay range

1  –  up to 1000            £42,379 – £56,950

2  – up to 2,200            £44,525  – £61,288

3 – up to 3,500             £48,024 – £65,953

4  – up to 5,000            £51,614 – £70,991

5  – up to 7,500            £56,950 – £78,298

6   – up to 11,000         £61,288  – £86,365

7  – up to 17,000          £65,963 – £95,213

8  – beyond 17,000       £75,725 – £105,097

In our example, the headteacher of a school of 900 students would be paid – at the top end – and most of them seem to be at that level £86,365, whereas in Scotland the pay is a maximum £66,000 for an identical school.

The final level of a headteachers’ pay is determined by the Governing Body (i.e. parents) within the scales set out above – although there is some leeway for awarding additional discretionary payments.

There are addditional scales of pay for headteachers of “special schools” but for the sake of simplicity I’ve ignored them in this comparision.


There does not seem to be a significant difference between the level of pay for basic grade teachers in England and Scotland but there are very significant differences in the pay of headteachers – particularly at secondary level. English headteachers would appear to be  paid between 20 – 30% more than their Scottish counterparts.

The key differences in terms of expectation is that the English school governing body can set performance targets that they expect the headteacher to achieve, and the fact that English Headteachers have a greater range of devolved responsibilities than their Scottish counterparts.

Headteachers/Principals: Go on – take a day off

HOLIDAY TIME !! by MyLifeStory.


Earlier this week I met with one of our most experienced and exceptional headteachers who is due to retire at the end of the session.

In a bespoke winding down arrangement we have agreed that she can take ten days unpaid leave during the year.  She has spread these days over the course of the year to provide a number of extended weekends.

The impact on her health and well-being has been incredible and she feels so much more able to undertake her job – to the benefit of herself and the school.

In line with my recent reflection on the mental health and well-being of teachers I wondered if this might be something we could consider in a different kind of arrangement with other headteachers?

Three years ago I moved from being a headteacher to being an educational administrator at East Lothian Council. My holiday entitlement changed from 65 days a year, to 27 days plus public holidays. Yet despite the apparent loss in days the biggest difference has been that I can now take days off when I want – even during term time.  As rule I try to avoid extended periods of absence during term time but I do try to take a number of single days throughout the year to create long weekends.  The result of this is that I can avoid the kind of accumulation of fatigue that used to occur when I was a headteacher.

We currently have a problem recruiting headteachers – people look at the stress involved, the relatively low pay differential between a depute headteacher and headteacher and decide that the negatives outweigh the positives. So with that in mind I’d like to make a suggestion:

What if headteachers could trade in some of the current holiday entitlement for a number of single day holidays which which can be taken during term time?  As a starting point in that negotiation I would suggest that the exchange rate would be two days for one day. So if a headteacher wanted to have five days leave throughout the year during term time they would have to forfeit ten days of their current holiday entitlement.  To be honest I would have gone for something like this as I probably spent that number of days in school during holiday periods trying to catch up and prepare.  From an employer’s perspective we could arrange for a proportion of these forfeited days to be taken at an agreed time and in so doing enable collegiate tasks to be undertaken – e.g. cluster working , particularly if other colleagues were working at the same time.

The issues which would have to be resolved  would be:

Would schools fall to bits without the headteacher being there for a day? – No – certainly not in well managed schools

What would parents think? – I believe they would understand and see it as positive step as long as it was properly explained.

What would staff think?  -There would probably be many teachers who would be upset by such an arrangement but perhaps we need to start to see there being some perks for taking on such a job.

So what would I be saying to headteachers?

Go on – take a day off!!!




TESS Article 6 – The Cheesecounter Effect


One of the things that schools sometimes fail to appreciate is just how intimidating they can be, especially secondary schools. We all have our memories of school, and for those of us in the teaching profession they are, for the most part,   likely to be positive recollections. Yet when you speak to some parents you begin to realise that the fortress mentality, which many schools strive to overcome, remains such a massive obstacle.

So when I became a headteacher in my own right I was determined to continue the approach that I’d encountered at my previous school. In my first few weeks I visited many homes to talk to parents and children in their own environment – as opposed to the headteacher’s lair. Such visits were almost always worthwhile and resulted in me being able to build some exceptionally strong relationships with parents who might otherwise never have crossed the threshold of the school

Which leads me to a true story. Most of my initial home visits were related to attendance issues and there were a number of pupils who got a shock when their new headteacher arrived at the door to ask why they weren’t at school. I rarely had to come back to the house once I’d had a ‘blether’ with their parents. Anyway – a parent approached me at an information evening and explained how she was having real difficulties in getting her 16-year-old son to school, as she often left home before he had to get out of his bed. We agreed that the next time he wasn’t at school that I could make a home visit. As it happened the very next day he was absent – I asked the office staff for the address and directions and set off with a colleague (always go accompanied). I went up to the door and rang the bell ……..no answer, knocked on the door……………no answer, knocked harder………….no answer, listened at the letter box and heard loud music (he must still be in bed!!!), shouted through the letter box……….the music got louder!!, tried the front door………..it opened, walked in the house……………shouting for him to come out!!………………….no answer – imagine my surprise when at last a terrified woman with a baby in her arms came out of a bedroom to explain that no one of that name lived in the house – I’d got the right house number but the wrong street. Huge apologies, a letter and bunch of flowers helped to diffuse the matter – but from that day on I’ve always double-checked the address!

Nevertheless, it’s possible that benefit came from even an error such as this as it was the talk of the town for a couple of weeks “A’m no wantin’ that man at oor door, so get yirsel tae skil”. The home visits for attendance issues certainly worked but what proved even more worthwhile were readmission meetings after exclusions, or meetings to explore other problems which children might be having at school. To sit down, accept hospitality (” no just a cuppa thanks”) and speak as equals about the child is such a useful strategy. I can’t tell you the number of times that my perception of a child has changed by seeing them in their home environment.

I’m not suggesting for one second that headteachers should spend all their days visiting homes but don’t think it’s possible to underestimate the impact it makes when the most senior person in the school is prepared to step outside the expected. The example that such visits set empowers so many others to do the same and can dramatically change the perception of parents towards the school – even those whose experiences as children had been so negative.

I sometimes call this phenomenon the “cheesecounter effect”. It goes something like this – two people are at the supermarket cheesecounter and look into each other’s trolleys and see a range of products for children – inevitably they begin to talk about their experiences of the school. The conversation can go one of two ways – an upward spiral, with the sharing of positive experiences – or a negative spiral. One can’t ignore that so many of parental perceptions are shaped by what they hear from others. It can be through relatively small, infrequent and seemingly inconsequential activities, such as headteacher home visits, which combine to influence the perception of parents towards a school.

Working together?


I’m just back from the Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES) annual conference which was held in Aviemore.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for Education and Lifelong Learning, was speaking and was stressing the importance of everyone involved in education working together, particularly in the new world of local outcome agreements.

As she was speaking I couldn’t help feeling that we in educational leadership positions in Scotland need to work a lot closer than we maybe have done in the past to ensure that we provide a united front to represent the needs of children.  Just last week the Headteachers Association Scotland, HAS,  (secondary sector) held their conference, and I’d been speaking at the Association of Headteachers and Deputes Scotland, AHDS,  (primary sector) just a few weeks ago.

All of our respective organisations have their place in Scottish education and HAS and AHDS do a great job representing the needs of their members as formal trade unions. However, it seems to me that there are such huge overlaps between our concerns, visions and backgrounds that we would have a huge amount to gain from working together in a more strategic manner – particulary in relation to some of the big issues facing Scottish education and children’s services. The direction of travel set out by Fiona Hyslop for the journey facing education over the next ten years suggests that we could collectively make a much greater impact if we looked for points of synergy and worked together to influence, transform and protect Scottish education. I’m not suggesting for one minute that any of the organisations forfeit their own identity -simply that we enhance our impact by forming a more strategic partnership on points of mutual interest.

Just a thought.

Change – taking ownership

During the workshop sessions I recently led at the AHDS conference I gave a presentation on The Seven Sides of Education Leadership – I’ve experimented here with Jing to try to capture the concept in a five minute video – It proved to be something of challenge to compress an hour and half into five minutes but I’d welcome feedback.

The point which particularly interested me in the discussions which took place on Friday was how some headteachers were uncomfortable with the word “change”. It seemed to me that they equated change with externally imposed initiatives which had litle positive impact within their schools.  They wanted to look for an alternative word such as “adaption”. In fact this point was touched upon by Norman Drummond earlier in the day when he suggested that we should use “enhancement” instead of “improvement” as the latter term implies that what we are doing at the moment is in inferior and needs improvement. – which undermines all the efforts which people are putting into their work.

I don’t have as much difficulty with the concept of “change” as others might, as I equate change with learning – when I learn something I have changed.  If I’m not learning then I’m not fulfilling my professional obligation. I also believe that learning and seeking to improve what we do is a fundamental part of the human condition.

However, I understand how teachers and headteachers perceive change as something over which they have no control – “They tell us what to do and we have to  do it” Yet the thing over which teachers have the most control – their classroom practice – is the one thing that that is the most important bearing upon the effectiveness of the education process. I believe we need to reconceptualise what change means to teachers and school leaders by seeing it as being an essentially internally driven process – as opposed to the externally imposed model which dominates people’s perspective at the moment.

Curriculum Architecture Conference

Our curriculum architecture conference proved to be a great success.

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The evaluations from the 100 participants has been exceptional. It validated the approach we selected to involve a wide range of participants – HTs, DHTs, PTs, Primary HTs, elected members, parents, students, business people, community services and members of the department in the development of policy.

Our sincere hope is that this format could provide a model for further such debates at school and cluster level. The contribution made by the senior students to the debate was incredible and showed how learners have such an important role to play in co-creating their curriculum.

I’ll be publishing the outomes of the event here once the feedback has been typed up.

Where do I find the time?

I had a fascinating discussion with some headteachers recently about the time they spend on their jobs, the difficulty of their jobs and challenge that such time pressures and other demands present.

I know I’m presenting a significant challenge by asking headteachers to spend up to two days a week focusing upon the teaching process by observing what’s going on in their schools’ classrooms. The obvious response is “where do I find the time?”

So what are the personal outcomes of such pressures? – 60-80 hour working weeks ; 4-5 hours sleep a night; disrupted sleep patterns were not uncommon – what sort of work/life balance is this? – is it any wonder that people don’t want to become head teachers?

So what are some of the expectations which headteachers have to live up to? (in no particular order):

Have a high profile in and around the school means that you undertake duties such as dinner duty, break time patrol, stair duty, detention duty, gate duty, bus duty

Evening work connected with parents’ evenings; community meetings; parents’ council meetings or school events – usually meaning that you have worked through from 7.30am – 9.00pm – on occasions up to three times a week

Open door policy means that you are often disrupted when trying to complete a task – meaning that you either have to do it when everybody has gone for the day, take it home or get in even earlier the next day before anyone else – that’s why headteachers are usually in first and leave last

Correspondence – mail and e-mail are never ending with requests for surveys, responses to the authority, government or other agencies, requests/queries from parents or the  community can fill a day themselves

Managing the consequences of pupil misbehaviour can take up huge chunks of time, with interviews, investigations, phone calls, parental meetings and reporting back to teachers all arising from one incident;

Financial management can be a big burden – even with a business manager – with worries arising from discrepancies causing sleepless nights

Personnel issues ranging from grievances, capabilty, competence and recruitment and associated paperwork are tasks which regularly require significant attention

Meetings outwith school can take up large amounts of time in a week – as the school’s major representative you are often required to attend

Writing policies, plans, letters to parents, newsletters, speeches

Analysing attainment data and the subsequent meetings with principal teachers or teachers

Completing the school improvement paperwork i.e. Planning, self- evaluation and monitoring

Timetabling and curriculum issues are significant issues at certain times of the year – especially if the headteacher is the timetabler

Complaint handling involves investigation, responding and on occasions repeated meetings

Reviewing forward plans from teachers and departments

Requests/demands from parents to see the headteacher “I won’t be fobbed off with anyone else”

Meetings with the senior management team, principal teachers, and staff and individual meetings with senior management colleagues

Teaching can also feature on some headteachers list of duties as they like to maintain credibility with colleagues and maintain contact with the classroom by taking on a class for the year, of course a teaching headteacher in a small school has no such option.

The question which jumps off the page for me here is – “Is it reasonable to expect any person to undertake such a range of competing and cumulatively impossible demands?”

The key driver for this review must be the well-being of our headteachers.

In my next post on this topic I’ll try to explore how we (it needs to be a collective solution) try to create some time within such a pressured existence to be involved in the kind of work that really makes an difference to learning and teaching for children and colleagues.

Head Teachers – making an impact

We held our first Head Teachers East Lothian Head Teachers’ Conference of the session at Musselburgh Racecourse this afternoon.

This was the first of five conferences which will take place over the session and adopted a new format following feedback from HTs last year. Each conference has a particular theme and has two distinct parts, the morning session will involve presentations whilst the afternoon offers a range of workshops run by Head Teachers for Head Teachers.

Today’s theme was “Making and Impact Upon your Community”. I led off the morning with an hour and half slot on how HTs make an impact upon their community. Contrary to the popular focus I concentrated on what the leader does – as opposed to the distributed leadership model. You can access my powerpoint here – although it really served as prompt for me, so I don’t know what sort of sense people can make of it in isolation. I was followed by our District HMIe Phil Denning who spoke – with real ethusiasm, insight and knowledge – about HGIOS3. People responded very well to Phil’s encouragement to engage actively in the self-evaluation process which linked nicely with our own self-evaluation and validation model that we are developing in East Lothian.

The afternoon offered four workshops – people could choose two – Creating and Positive Ethos; Developing links with parents; managing people; and Development Planning. Two Head Teachers had volunteered to lead each of the sessions.

The feedback from the day has been very positive and I’m already looking forward to our next conference on the 7th November where the  theme is to be “managing resources”.

The first step on a journey to excellence?

The dilemma “Would you sacrifice occasionally excellent for consistently good?”  has stimulated a fascinating variety of responses.

The motivation for creating this dilemma was a conversation I’d had with someone who had said that they would tolerate weak teaching as long as it was counter-balanced by excellent teaching in the same school.

I think it’s fair to say that when you present this dilemma to teachers they invariably believe that weak teachers can be improved by getting them to learn from, and work with excellent teachers – through a form of osmosis between one teacher to another. However, when you speak to parents the answer is almost always the reverse – “I don’t want my child taught by that teacher”.

Everything in Scottish Education is geared up to promote excellence; Journey to Excellence; A Curriculum for Excellence; Building Excellence; Centres of Excellence; Teachers for Excellence; Targeting Excellence and just Excellence

The Scottish Government summarise this as follows:

Scottish education is well-regarded and respected all over the world. But there is no room for complacency – every school should be excellent.

I am personally committed to this goal but I’d like to dig a little deeper into what we mean by excellence and complacency.

Richard Elmore, in his book School Reform from Inside Out: Policy, Practice and Performance suggests that most reform strategies are based on what he describes as the “true believers” who are already motivated and whose commitment is galvanised by concentrating them into small groups who reinforce each other – the bad news, as Elmore points out, is that these small groups of self-selected reformers apparently seldom influence their peers.

From his analysis of research Elmore suggest that the proportion of teachers who are committted to ambitious and challenging practice is roughly 25% of the population and that this % can decline considerably if the climate for reform is weak. There are two issues which jump out for me from Elmore’s work – relying upon self-selecting groups of teachers is not conducive to success; and the critical mass of a school will not be affected if you only rely on the already committed.

Elmore goes on to assert that:

“Every school can point to its energetic, engaged, and effective teachers; many students can recall at least one teacher who inspired them in engagement in learning and love of knowledge. We regularly honor and deify these pedagigical geniuses. But these exceptions prove the rule”.

For me this can sometimes be the source of complacency, i.e. we do have exceptional and excellent teachers in all our schools but they are perhaps there by default as opposed to any consequence of the training or development which can successfully influence other less exceptional teachers.

There exists significant research to demonstrate the impact that good teaching makes on children’s achievement.  To summarise some of the findings of such research it is generally accepted that if a child has a weak teacher for one year it can take up to 18 months for them to make up the deficit. If a child has a weak teacher for two years in a row it can take up to three years to recover and if the child has a weak teacher for three years in a row the child might never fully recover the ground that has been lost.

Primary school or Elementary school  Head Teachers around the world, regardless of whether they are aware if this research,  often try to ensure that children are not exposed to weak teachers for more than one year at any one time. They will therefore place a weak teacher between two stronger teachers to ensure that their negative impact is lessened -see Sanders and Rivers, Using student progress to evaluate teachers and Does teacher quality matter? for more information.

In the secondary school environment Head Teachers and other managers will often place weak teachers with lower ability groups in the knowledge that parents of such children are less likely to complain about the teacher. 

My point here is that all too often in education – worldwide – we conspire to “protect” children from the impact of a weak teacher. Perhaps the first step we need to take on our “Journey to Excellence” is to work together to ensure that no teacher could ever be descibed as being weak.

I believe that such a goal would have a much more transformational effect on children’s education than the ambitious, yet probably unrealistic goal, that everyone should be excellent. Speaking as a parent I would comfortably describe any school as being “excellent” if there were to be no teacher in the school who I did not want to teach my child.

Active ACE Fridays

Innerwick Primary School are leading the way in exploring alternative curriculum models.

Check out  Head Teacher Angus McCrury’s blog for more information. All East Lothian schools run an asymmetric week which means that the pupils finish on Fridays at 12.30pm.

I’ll let Angus explain it further:

We have decided to abandon the traditional Friday routine which was. Finish stuff that you couldn’t do/wouldn’t do Monday-Thursday. Go to assembly to listen to the HT drone on about schools rules and other boring stuff, go on to Golden time which was always cut short in order to get lunches out onto the buses before they went away without half the kids. (happens often).

What we have moved to is ACtivE ACE Friday.
What is this all about, I don’t really know as it is evolving every week into a bigger and more successful animal. The children are all here, with no absences so far. They are brought to the school hall put into groups and set 4 challenges or tasks, these have to be completed with the help of a member of staff and parent volunteers.

I’m excited by this innovation and will be very interested to find out what impact it has upon children’s attitude to school and the quality of their learning at other times in the week.