The merit of all things

I’ve often heard it argued that teachers should all be paid on the same scale according solely to the length of their teaching experience.

I don’t agree.


  • Depending on the subject one teacher might teach two, or even three times the number of students in a week. Teaching the same group of students for six sessions a week is different from teaching three different groups for two sessions each. They can create significantly different workloads.
  • As a maths teacher I never had to mark essays. I suspect that it is significantly harder, or at least more time consuming, than marking maths. So marking is a heterogeneous activity.
  • It is possible that the upkeep of the knowledge required to teach some subjects is different to that of others. As an example I give the significant changes in emphasis over the years in, say, Biology, Chemistry and more recently ICT/Computing.
  • I’ve never had to teach in a classroom where students had access to bottles of acid and fire-making equipment. I suspect that behaviour management skills need to be set at ninja level compared to those required for the relatively tea-party like maths classroom.
  • Some teachers teach predominantly at KS3/KS4 and others teach more at KS5. Each has its pluses and minuses, though I’m not sure they cancel each other out.
  • Some teachers spend all their time with the same group of children and get to know them well. Others have ten to fifteen different groups each week which then change to a greater or lesser degree every time there is a test.
  • Some teachers teach subjects that are the primary focus for accountability measures and others don’t. For example, Progress8 relies on English and Maths for up to 50% of its value. Are those subjects under more pressure than a subject voluntarily taken to GCSE level by, say, 20% of the cohort? Or does the pressure not knowing if any students will want to take your subject have the same impact?
  • Some teachers work in areas where it costs, at a minimum, the blood of your first born to put down a deposit on the right to think about buying their own home. For others the cost of living is a little lower.
  • Some teachers teach in schools I’d be scared to drive past. In a Humvee. With Bruce Willis riding shotgun.
  • Some teachers teach children who bring them apples to show their pleasure at learning. Others teach children who bring them apples, but in an Alan Turing kind of way.
  • Some teachers have to teach outside for long periods of time. In the cold. And rain.
  • All other things being equal, one individual may actually get better at a job faster than another. As children learn at different rates, so do adults.
  • Some subject areas compete for candidates against other industries where pay is significantly higher than teaching.

I’m sure if I sat for long enough I could come up with a few more examples of differences.

I am 100% behind the idea of the same pay for the same job. You could argue that if you undertook a detailed study of the differences and tried to place a value on them (as the NHS recently did with their job re-evaluation exercise) you might end up with them largely cancelling each other out. Personally I doubt it.

I’m not sure if I would argue for such an exercise to be carried out, but I am sure that it is grossly over-simplifying to argue that all teachers should (essentially) be paid the same because they do the same job. It’s just that the job they do is lumped under the general heading of “teaching” because that’s easier.

I’m guessing that the reason no-one has ever tackled this issue is not because I am wrong, or because any dis-advantages of doing so outweigh any advantages (which they may), but because it falls under the heading of “too difficult”.

Now I’m going to hide.


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