Teachers are paid like amateurs
It seems almost arrogant to be complaining about pay rates for teachers as we enter a 6 week paid vacation. Indeed, the cries from the general populace are palpable. Of course the argument is always blurred by the general population’s bias, entrenched from their own miserable schooling experiences. However, I challenge any one to tell me who is paid worse out of all professions than teachers. And before a collective negativity permeates the airwaves as this is read, I implore you to consider the context of the teacher’s role compared with other professions.
Teaching is one of the few jobs whose job description belittles the actual amount of energy and dedication necessary and in fact demanded to be successful. Let’s go through the numbers.
Any teacher worth their salt delivers a 10 hour day, and often that is on a good day. This includes actual teaching time, tutor groups, professional development, and other hidden non-compulsory (#compulsory) school activities, parental correspondence and parent interviews, and preparation.
The majority of the public has no notion of what it actually takes to deliver 4 or 5 or 6 lessons a day to an incredibly differentiated bunch of young people. It takes great skill and significant planning to deliver quality and engaging lessons, all varied in approach necessary to cater to diverse ability ranges and learning styles.
Add to that at least 4 or 5 hours on the weekends, and then add any marking that must be completed for each class every fortnight. In other words, add 2 to 3 hours per class per fortnight. So that’s another 10 to 15 hours a fortnight.
So far we are up to a minimum of 118 hours per fortnight, or a 59 hour working week. Of course, this is mitigated by the holidays that teachers receive, but let’s look at these too. The 6 week break in summer is only 2 weeks more than any other worker who would receive their 4 week annual leave. But teachers also have 2 weeks in-between terms (4 weeks) and 1 week for half term breaks (3 weeks), totaling 9 more weeks than regular professions. Sounds like a promised land, however, in each half term break, teachers would spend at least 3 days preparing for the next session and catching up with assessment marking etc., and in the 2 week in-between terms teachers would spend at least 4 days preparing and catching up on assessment and book marking. This takes off 3 weeks.
The extra 6 weeks seem a wonderful bonus, but the purpose of this essay is to consider the inequity of wage for teachers compared with other professions, and if we take the 59 hour week and inoculate it with the 30 days of free time, it effectively reduces the 59 hour working week to a meager 54 hours a week (excuse the sarcasm).
The average teacher in the UK earns approximately between £21,000 and £31,000 on the main pay scale, and can earn up to £36,000 on the upper pay scale, but with significantly more responsibility (which equates to a significant greater time commitment). Teachers in London earn on average £3,000 more than other teachers, but of course pay more to live there. This equates to a newly qualified teacher earning @ £7.50 per hour, a teacher on the highest main scale receiving @ £11 p/hr, and an upper scale teacher receiving @ £12 p/hr (not taking into account the extra time commitment necessary for these roles).
In this time I won’t include mental energy dedicated to the job, with countless hours lying in bed considering the welfare of students and how the learning environment could be improved, as I believe that this would be the same for any professional intent on raising the outcomes and progress of their product. But what other job that requires at least a 4 year degree pays its workers £7 to £12 per hour? What other job that has such incredible importance to the lives of young people, and to the future of a country’s economy and well-being pays its workers so poorly?
If I get in a plumber, it costs me at least £45 an hour. If I get in an electrician it costs me at least £45 an hour. If I get a haircut, it costs me at least £45 a cut. If I get a tattoo it cost me £100 an hour. If I get an architect to design a house for me, it could cost up to £200 an hour. If I get a graphic designer to design a logo or a website, it could cost me up to £300 an hour. Lawyers, doctors, counselors, mechanics, surveyors, you name it, any profession out there is paid astronomically better than teachers.
The ultimate irony is that all of these professions are cultivated in school. Cultivated by teachers who invariably have to not only teach the skills necessary to gain such credentials but also spend significant amounts of time motivating students to complete tasks, work to their potential, and manage their behaviour. More often than not, the 3 latter elements dominate teaching, with the majority of students entering lessons in a negative state of mind, perhaps as a result of the outside environment, or the schooling system itself with its relentless pursuit of results. To say that the latter 3 elements can be draining would be an understatement.
Consider any scalable enterprise presently, and the amounts of money made in its pursuit. The rates of pay then become grossly disproportionate to the hours worked. Yet teaching is very much a scalable endeavor, with the possible outcomes of service facilitating a growth economy of phenomenal scale, but for some reason the pay is embarrassingly non-representative of this fact.
So while I begin my 6 week vacation (4 weeks after I take out my planning for next year), take a moment to think about my reality, and how little chance I have of actually doing too much in the holidays with my kids because I simply can’t afford it.