How to give all UK teachers a 35% pay rise.

Warning, this blog involves lots of numbers. Don’t worry, I had a historian proof read it and he understood ūüôā

For the purposes of these calculations, I’m going to ignore inflation and talk in 2018 pounds. The teachers’ pension automatically takes into account inflation, so that makes this a reasonable thing to do.

The average teacher earns, according to the government, ¬£37,400. Each year under the current ‘career average’ scheme, my average teacher, Sarah will earn a pension of 1/57th of her salary: ¬£656 per year.

How much would this pension cost if Sarah wasn’t a teacher? At the age of 68, a pension pot of ¬£100,000 will buy an annuity, which grows with inflation as the teachers’ pension does, of ¬£3,600 per year (see note 1). Therefore, it would cost ¬£18,200 to pay for Sarah’s pension of ¬£656 p.a.

Where does this ¬£18,200 come from? As a member of the mysterious teachers’ pension, Sarah contributes 9.7% of her income, ¬£3,600. This means that each year the government contributes an additional ¬£14,600¬†(39% of her salary: see note 2) that she never sees and may not even know exists.

My sister is a lawyer and her employer contributes 3% of her salary to her pension pot. Let’s say the government adopted this approach: it takes the ¬£14,600 it currently contributes to Sarah’s pension, pays her ¬£13,100 extra, sending her salary to a healthy ¬£50,500, a 35% increase. It contributes to remaining ¬£1,500 (3% of her new income: see note 3) to her pension.

I’m using Sarah as an example but it doesn’t matter if you think she’s not representative, because we could equivalently increase all teachers’ salaries by this 35%. I’ll say it again, 35%!¬†Starting salaries for teachers shoot up to ¬£31k (¬£39k in inner London) and suddenly look a lot more competitive. On the other hand, teachers’ pensions are now terrible, along with the pensions of lawyers, accountants and most other professions. But who goes into a job because of the pension?

Could this change help solve the recruitment problem?

ps. I make no comment as to whether or not I think this is a good idea. My wise father-in-law pointed out that it’s a very Conservative suggestion: let people choose how to spend, or save, their money.


(1) I interpolated based on the figures given. This is actually a conservative estimate because I used the figures for a single pension: in fact, the teachers’ pension also pays 37.5% to a partner after the teachers’ death, so would be worth more than what I calculated. This all assumes that a private pension pot grows at the same rate at the teacher’s pension (CPI + 1.6%). I suspect that some pension schemes may do better than this, but they will be much more variable and may also go down significantly, for example in 2009.

(2) Officially, Sarah’s school contributes 16.5% (in the case of state schools, this is just the government shuffling numbers around on a page) but the¬†¬£14,600 is actually 39% of Sarah’s salary of ¬£37,400. I understand that the government doesn’t actually ‘save’ this money as teachers’ pensions are unfunded, but it does have to pay it eventually. In the short term, this policy would cost the government quite a lot of money, but in the long term, it wouldn’t make a difference.

(3) My wife thinks this paragraph is confusing, because she is eagle-eyed and noted that 3%+35% does not equal 39%. Why doesn’t it add up? These percentages are of different numbers (3% of the new salary, 35% of the old salary), a pretty classic tricky idea with percentages.

Scheming, Part 1: Sequencing Topics and Prerequisites

I have probably spent about 40 hours in the past two weeks working on my scheme of work.

I started with the base scheme of work from my first school in Highgate. It stands out amongst schemes because it spends just 2-3 lessons on each ‘unit’ before moving on. This isn’t because it tries to pack in the whole syllabus into two years, but because each ‘unit’ consists of just one major new idea.

I really enjoyed teaching this way and was surprised when I first found out that other schools spend around a month teaching one narrow around area of maths before moving on to a different area. I wonder how on earth the students are going to remember a topic that they last studied two years ago. If you teach in small blocks, the difficulty is that pupils may not remember the prerequisite material. However, this forces you to constantly recap and provides spaced-practice by default.

So, what have I done to improve (in my opinion) on Highgate’s scheme? I have put a lot of effort into checking that the topics flow well from year to year, with each new ‘unit’ introducing a similar amount of new material. I have referred to some other schemes in the process:

I used these mostly to give me an idea of what year group pupils usually meet a topic. Jemma’s scheme in particular gave me new ideas of the key points within a topic and helped me to break down some of my topics more carefully. Where I needed more help on this, I also asked for help on twitter. This poll was the culmination of loads of great suggestions I received on teaching HCF and LCM, which led to me introducing a section on algebraic forms of these as a prerequisite to factorising, adding algebraic fractions and more.

Some of my considerations in designing the scheme were:

I don’t want to recover material that pupils have already learned at primary school, so I haven’t included the lessons on basic number and geometry that many secondary schemes do. Instead, I will check pupils’ prior understanding when introducing new topics as part of my planned mastery approach.

I want my scheme to only list each new idea once. Of course, there will be need for review and if necessary, reteaching, but in general, I really dislike schemes which have exactly the same ideas in two different places. I want to know what the pupils should have already learned (even if they haven’t fully learned it!) and what’s new.

I tried to put at least one bit of each ‘topic area’ in each year group. I feel that this is generally a good idea, as pupils have to see a topic each year and so have an opportunity to recap it. It’s also particularly important in my international context, as we have a higher turnover of pupils, so it will allow me to get new pupils up to date with each topic.

I don’t want to accelerate higher-attaining pupils and I don’t want to finish teaching before Easter in year 11, so the ideas are spread evenly throughout the 5 years.

I used specifications to mark the topics which only feature on the higher tier. With a few exceptions, I made sure these topics are in year 10 and 11 so that if I decide to enter pupils for the foundation tier, they will be able to spend more time on the other topics in these final two years.

So, the final product… You can see / download it here:¬†

I’d really welcome any criticism to this as it’s definitely still a work in progress.

In particular, I’m working through the geometry tabs to check that I have listed all the relevant prerequisites.¬†I’m also aware that while the topics are very interleaved, there is little genuine interweaving of them.

In Defence of Detailed Written Plans

I didn’t write a lesson plan for the first 5 years of my teaching career. It was a mistake.

For starters, my claim may be hard to believe for many teachers; how did I get away with such a lax approach? I taught in an independent school in Highgate. No lesson plans were required, observation was frequent but informal and observation grades were an alien concept until I joined the GTP in my 6th year.  The fact that this may surprise many teachers is a sign of a disconnect between the maintained and independent sectors, which manifests itself in many areas.

From my external perspective, the above conversation is funny; Sam now teaches at Highgate and Katharine has (as far as I’m aware) always worked in the state sector. Whilst, to Katharine, no observation grades may have been ‘unthinkable’ 10 years ago, this was exactly what Sam’s independent school was doing then (though it was long before he worked there).

Anyway, back to the main point: I love a debate, and this time I’m taking on two big names: @teachertoolkit and @teacherhead, who have both made a similar point in recent blogs.

Whilst these blogs make some excellent suggestions (click the extracts above to see the whole blogs), they both suggest avoiding written lesson plans. On the contrary, I think we should strongly encourage teachers to write down lesson plans.

A detailed written plan is like a path worn into the hillside.

When I come to teach a topic, what do I have at my disposal? I have years of classroom management experience, an understanding of major misconceptions that pupils have in my subject, but do I remember the finer details of when I last taught the topic two years ago? Probably not. Even if I think I do, my memories are not necessarily accurate.

A friend of mine once explained why, as a classicist, he loves paths: they represent years of accumulated knowledge and experience. As a teacher, my written plans are my paths. When I head in a direction that leads to dead-ends or rocky ground, I backtrack and find a different route. In this way, the best path becomes more worn and so easier to follow over time. As a Mountain Leader, I am capable of navigating away from paths, but when doing so I’m less likely to point out the interesting geological features or flora and fauna along the way.

To be fair to¬†@teachertoolkit, their post suggests that there shouldn’t be an obligation to write lesson plans, which I suppose I agree with. And if you read the detail,@teacherhead says that teachers should have a list of objectives and resources, which is what my ‘lesson plans’ mostly contain. To be precise, I’m not specifically advocating individual lesson plans (though they may be useful for some teachers) but rather ‘topic plans’. However, I don’t believe that ‘lesson planning’ should feature on such lists because this suggests to teachers and managers that written plans are not helpful. For me, if you write down a plan, update it after the lesson to emphasise good bits and delete or alter what went badly, this will¬†reduce your workload in the long-term, as you don’t have to plan afresh every year.

I learnt a lot of ‘big-picture’ ideas in my first 5 years of teaching, but many of the finer details were lost; which examples and tasks drew out the point well and which turned out to be too simple or complicated. I met so many interesting ideas, but many don’t feature in my teaching because I didn’t write them down.

I started to write detailed plans in earnest 4 years ago: a few of them I now deem good enough to warrant sharing online. However, I still look at them and ponder how much clearer the paths would be if I had been walking them for longer.