The education secretary has claimed teachers are “probably in the top 10 per cent of earners in some parts of the country”, and over-stated the average head’s salary by over £20,000.

Speaking to LBC this morning, Gillian Keegan also claimed teachers’ salaries were “a lot higher than the average salaries across the country”.

But that doesn’t fit with salary data published by the Department for Education. The latest school workforce data shows the average classroom teacher earned £39,000 in 2020-21.

Office for National Statistics data shows the average salary in all occupations was only slightly lower, at £38,131. The mean was used to calculate both figures.

Keegan was quizzed over teacher pay amid ballots for strike action by the National Education Union, NASUWT teachers’ union and NAHT school leaders’ union.

The education secretary pointed to the recent announcement of £2 billion of extra funding for each of the next two years. She also pointed to the increase in starting salaries this year to £28,000. They are due to rise again to £30,000 by 2024.

“The average salary of a classroom teacher is £39,000. That’s the classroom teacher. You get a bit more in London, a bit more in outer London, but that’s the average across the country,” Keegan said.

She also said her 23-year-old cousin had started teaching, and earned a salary of £28,000 while still living with her parents in Knowsley in the north west.

Keegan claims average head earns £95k

Keegan insisted that “the reality is it’s a good career. It’s probably in the top 10 per cent of earners in some parts of the country. Of course there’s always things you can say you can earn more money doing various careers. We know that.”

But even in Knowsley, a salary of £28,000 is below-average, and definitely not in the top 10 per cent of earnings. ONS data shows the area had an average salary of £32,409 in 2021.

When pressed further on low pay, Keegan doubled-down, stating that teachers’ salaries were “a lot higher than the average salaries across the country”, and that “an average head is on £95,000”.

This is also incorrect. DfE workforce data shows the average head earned £74,100 in 2021.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson called Keegan’s comments “staggeringly out-of-touch”, adding she was “clearly complacent about the teacher recruitment and retention crisis happening in our schools”.

“Teachers are leaving the profession in droves because they are overworked and underappreciated by this Conservative government, while potential new recruits are turning away from a career in our classrooms.”

It comes on the same day new ⁠research showed education staff had seen among the lowest pay growth of any industry over the past decade.


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