UK Young Teacher Salaries Among Lowest in OECD Countries


A new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reveals that young UK teachers are among the lowest-paid, with starting wages for English and Scottish teachers being below the OECD average. Their Korean, Portuguese and Irish counterparts launch their teaching careers with higher salaries.

Concluding on the study’s findings, Andreas Schleicher, the OECD Education and Skill director, said that teacher salaries in England and Scotland are ‘going backwards in real terms’ when compared to 2005 and 2013 salaries. For the majority of OECD countries, teacher pay increased in real terms.

Schleicher said that there hasn’t been any increase in teacher pay in the last ten years for UK teachers. When taking into account incentives, benefits and allowances, however, UK teachers are paid better than most teachers in all OECD countries, Yahoo News reports.

The study reveals that the starting salary for a primary education teacher is £27,768 for English and £27,576 for Scottish young teachers, with the OECD average at £29,807. For secondary school teachers, pay for starting educators was below the OECD average of £31,013, The Metro says.

Another important finding in OECD’s report is that the UK primary school classes are among the most populated with an average number of 27 students per teacher. The average class size for OECD is 21 students with China counting 37, Israel 28, and Chile 29. In secondary education, UK’s average class size of 20 students is better than the OECD average of 24.

Compared to countries such as China, Japan and Korea where teachers have large class sizes but have the resources and time for professional development, UK teachers are lagging behind, with large class sizes but no time for anything else but teaching. Schleicher commented:

“There’s a lot of effort in many countries… to create a work environment where teachers have more room to sort of foster their profession as a whole, and that is where the UK is an exception.”

During the study’s presentation in London, Mr. Schleicher argued that despite the low starting salaries, UK teachers have many incentives and flexible pay scales. Compared to teachers in other countries, UK educators are affluent. However, compared to workers with similar skills and training, they are underpaid. He emphasized that this is a problem when the aim is to recruit “the best and brightest into the profession,” The Yorkshire Post said.

Commenting on the OECD study findings, Chris Keates, the General Secretary of the teachers’ union (NASUWT), said the report emphasizes the challenges teachers face about pay. Keates said that a starting teacher receives one-fifth less than graduates in other professions. As a result, by the end of a teacher’s career, educators’ pay doesn’t do justice to their hard work and commitment to the profession.

“It should come as no surprise that low-pay, year-on-year pay cuts and excessive workload have resulted in over two-thirds of teachers having seriously considered leaving the profession, and one in 10 of newly qualified teachers who are only in their first term say they will be leaving within 12 months,” Keates said according to the Herald Scotland.

Mr. Schleicher said English teachers are not as motivated to improve their qualifications as teachers in other countries like Korea where educators are continuously looking for opportunities to become better.

The high tuition fees for post-secondary education – the highest among all OECD countries – are added to the grim findings on UK education. The data reveals that on average, undergraduates students in the UK pay the highest fees.