How to negotiate salaries- for teachers

Salary negotiation isn’t just for people on 6 figure salaries or in ridiculous tech or finance jobs. In my experience teachers can negotiate salaries too. (4 min read)

A few years ago I was sitting on an interview panel when something that I’d not seen in about 8 years of interviewing staff in schools happened. We offered the job to the candidate, a physics teacher, and she said something like “I’d love to, but I was wondering if you could up the salary.”

There was silence. I think my boss, the Head, was slightly peeved, the interview was now going to take a bit longer and he had stuff to do.  I inwardly smiled. I was so used to reading that women never negotiated salaries that is was nice to see somebody who did. I’ve never seen a man do that in teaching either by the way.

There was a bit of to and fro. She outlined why she thought she was worth it, remember she already knew we wanted her because she’d been offered the job on the spot. Eventually she got a salary higher than the one advertised.

I’ve had similar experiences in a few different roles in and out of teaching and was talking about this to another teacher once so thought I’d share my experiences

Know what you are worth

Understand the market for your position. I’m first and foremost a maths teacher and I have a decent track record in a variety of roles. Good maths teachers are generally in demand in the areas I’m happy to work in (London and East of England). So if you are good and there is a shortage of your skills then it’s likely you’ll have a decent chance of doing well in negotiating.

Look at what similar jobs are paying in the region you are looking for. Consider the highest possible range you’ve seen ” I know that in other schools like this they are paying X for my role.”

Your best chance of negotiating is when you start a new role at a new school.

Sorry but it’s true. You are more likely to get a reasonable pay rise by moving schools than staying put. That’s just life. There isn’t really a premium for loyalty these days. Deal with it. If you are happy and growing and developed in other ways then stay where you are. There is more to life than money but if you feel under appreciated or want a new challenge you need to be brave and move. Moaning in the staff room for year after year won’t change things. Even if it’s for exactly the  same position elsewhere. I’ve had fairly decent pay rises that way and I know lots of other teachers who have too.

Your best chance of negotiating is when you have just been offered the job/new role

At this point you know they want you. It’s simple supply and demand. Don’t be an idiot and try and negotiate before being offered a job. That’s presumptuous, you may not be what they want. Once offered though, go for it. They want you, you want a job, you’ve just got to agree terms that are suitable for everybody.

There’s no need to be a knob

Just be chilled. Confirm what they were offering from the advert then open things up

“I’d love to work here, I understand you are offering… I was hoping we could go a bit higher because…”

Outline what you are excited about doing when you come and how you’ll add value. Outline your experience. Outline what other roles are offering. Why you are worth the top of the range advertised or a bit more. Do it with a smile. Everybody wants to feel like they’ve got a good deal and can go away with their head held high.

If somebody approaches you about a job you can definitely negotiate

If you are good/respected/whatever enough for people to approach you about a job or something else paid (consultancy or similar), they specifically want you. So it’s their job to persuade you to come. I’ve been on the receiving end of people doing this very well. I’ve also been the negotiator, it’s scary but it also tends to work.

Negotiation may not just be about money

Maybe you only want to work on particular days. Maybe you specifically need A-Level teaching. I don’t know but think about what you want and ask for it. Get things in writing though…

Be happy whatever the outcome

The worst that can happen is that they say no (which happens less often than you’d think). It’s not the end of the world. You won’t die. Presumably you already worked out if you want the job or not whatever they said.  I was once offered the job but they changed what had been offered in the advert. I tried to negotiate and they weren’t having it so I politely declined the job. All was fine and the world didn’t end.

Whatever happens you’ll be building those negotiation skills for a time when it really matters and it’s good to keep employers on their toes.

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Note on 10th April 2018. I wrote this a year ago and have since moved to If you liked this you may like another very practical article How to hold meetings that people thank you for at the end.










My hopes for diversity in 2017 #BAMEed

When Amjad, one of the BAME founders, asked me to write a blog post for #BAMEed I agreed straight away. The team behind #BAMEed are good people and it’s an important topic. – 597 words

So what are my hopes? I have a few but I’ll write briefly about one here.

  • That ‘diversity’ doesn’t become a catch-all term to water down the need for serious work to address inequalities faced by a variety people in our society. This includes people who belong to one particular sub group or a combination.


Can diversity still exclude?

A school could have an all-white staff and all-white curriculum but legitimately say they have made steps to address diversity. How? Because they have women on their team.  All positive representation in the curriculum could be of white people and the school could be completely mono-cultural in all aspects but because women were involved or well represented the school could feel happy about representation.

A school could have an ethnically balanced staff and curriculum but still have serious issues related to sexism. Their ethnically diverse staff could be led by an all-male senior team.  The curriculum may only highlight the contribution of significant male figures in history.

A school could be making great strides to address gender and racial disadvantage but may not be a safe place for LBGT (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender) people to learn, thrive and work.

Diversity as a concept is, of course, important but I sometimes wonder if it’s become a term that is now used to make people in the majority (which majority depends on the particular aspect of diversity) feel comfortable instead of having to use words that they might find unpalatable.


“We wish to become more diverse” is maybe a little more palatable than “We are working to become less racist” or “we are working to become less sexist” or “we are working to become less homophobic.”

Additionally, by using the umbrella term “diversity” it leaves majorities open to address the section of diversity that they find most palatable rather than the ones that challenge them or may need the most addressing in their community.

Being specific

So what am I saying? I’d like people to be a little more direct. Sometimes terms can be so wide that they lose meaning. Sometimes this is deliberate- to start conversations that people may find uncomfortable- but to actually achieve anything we sometimes need to be specific. If we are talking about wanted to improve ethnic diversity – let’s say that. If it’s gender diversity let’s set that out as a clear aim.  Alongside that, people in different diverse groups need to recognise where we can have strength as a collective but don’t necessarily need to allow majority groups to set the terms – including what we are called.

Finally, the second part of my original hope- let’s not forget that there is diversity within diversity. Black women exist. Gay Indian men exist. Disabled transgendered people who aren’t white exist. Different groups under the umbrella term of diversity experience life in a variety of ways and some people live at the intersection of a more than one minority- which may make their experience different to the expected standard.

In summary, let’s not dilute what we are trying to achieve regarding equality of opportunity and outcome for different groups by using terms that are so vague, bland and far-reaching as to loose meaning. Let’s also remember that some people, like me, happen to tick more than one diversity box and our experiences are just as valid as those who tick one or none.











Do we educate for conformity?

Is education too often about making children conform? Is so, is that a problem? 157 words

I was listening to a podcast recently when the interviewer said

‘In a world that is trying to get you to be vanilla, nobody that I know who is successful took the normal path’ – Chase Jarvis, CEO Creative Live

It got me thinking.

  • what do we teach young people that success is? Are we right?
  • who decides what normal is?
  • how do we decide which deviations from normal are good and which are bad?

Schools can be wonderful places where education is transformative and life long learning begins. Schools can also be uninspiring places where we teach students (and staff) that the way to have a quiet life is to do what everybody else does and conform. Sure, we’ll allow questions as long as we already know the answers and it doesn’t shake things up too much.

People who end up changing things and being great didn’t always follow the rules.


Enjoy your Wednesday.




Stuff nobody tells you when you get promoted #1

How underperformance can be about a variety of factors. This will be a sporadic series of things that I wish I’d known when I first got promoted to various leadership positions. Mistakes I’ve made and learnt from (394 words). 

I don’t have many regrets in my working life but one often comes back to me. As a young Head of Maths I was newly promoted and had been teaching for 3 or 4 years. I was passionate about improving outcomes for the kids in my hectic, underperforming, inner city school and had high expectations of myself and my team.  I’d noticed one teacher, H, consistently delivering poor lessons, missing deadlines and I felt that the kids in his classes were getting a bad deal.  It was especially frustrating as the kids looked up to him, as a young good-looking guy from their own community background, and I knew he had potential.

I tackled H in a way that I’m ashamed of now and haven’t done to any member of staff since- it was from a place of wanting the best for students but wasn’t respectful to him as a person. Luckily my deputy challenged me on it and I reflected and changed but the damage had already been done to our working relationship. There was bad language and  lot of stick rather than carrot.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight and more life experience I realise that H almost certainly had issues going on in his personal life over a prolonged time period. Amongst other things, he was quiet and withdrawn and often checking his phone, often disappearing to use it during lessons. I spotted the behaviour, which affected his teaching, but didn’t think to ask about the reasons or how he might be supported. In fact it didn’t occur to me what the reasons might be, I was so used to the deficit model prevalent in some schools that I automatically assumed it was just laziness.

We get a lot of training about kids and how their personal lives may affect how they present and act in school but less so about staff.  We learn signs to flag up safeguarding issues for students but not for the adults who we are also responsible for in our schools and teams. We don’t get taught the stuff when we are promoted to manage others. It comes with experience but in the meantime the mistakes are made in real time with real people.



Unconventional Leadership: My interview on the inspiration for teachers podcast

Recently I was interviewed by Kelly Long for the Inspiration for Teachers podcast. Being interviewed really makes you reflect on your professional practice so I’d recommend it if you get offered the opportunity. Kelly conducted a great interview with the main theme being unconventional leadership. 

A few of the key points covered:

  • Teacher parent relationships – parents are partners not adversaries. Approach conversations from that viewpoint and often parents respond well even if the topic you are discussing is difficult
  • My unexpected introduction to my first middle management role after my boss went off sick
  • Recognising the expertise in a team and getting them on board as partners
  • The importance of your personal core values when applying for middle and senior leadership- why are you in education?
  • How knowing core values will help you in your daily working life
  • Knowing your leadership philosophy- mine is student centred but I’m also very clear that staff need to be treated well and respected. Great staff are not an expendable resource.
  • The gap between what leadership actually has been for me and what I thought it would be earlier in my career
  • Leadership as relationships- the importance of small 1-2-1 conversations
  • Noticing the positives

Have a listen and see if you agree







A question of values

Recently a friend handed in her notice with no job to go to. One of my closest friends did something similar two years ago.  Both had recently been promoted at a new school. A few years ago I was signed off work having had a breakdown and made the decision that I would never work in that school again whether I had secured a job or not. I, too, was set to hand my notice in. At that point we had a mortgage and a toddler and could not have met our commitments as a family without my salary.

Luckily, I found a new job and started a different phase of my life but what makes a person get to that point?

Recently, I attended an excellent workshop run by David McQueen – Success on Your Own Terms. I’m at a bit of a crossroads with some of my creative work outside of school and wanted to refocus.

At one point David asked us to list our top three values, with no filter and without overthinking.

Mine were

  • Integrity
  • Curiosity
  • Love/family
  • Development

Ok so that’s four, but you get the idea.

Then he asked us to list the top three values of the organisations that we work for.  There was some laughter in the room.  A few people struggled because they weren’t too sure what those were. A telling question from the floor was, “Do you mean what we say they are or what they actually are in practice?”

So what makes a person hand in their notice for a job that they have fought hard to get with no immediately obvious means to support themselves and their dependants? Values. It was becoming clear my values did not match the day to day values of my organisation, as evidenced by what I was asked to do and how my manager interacted with me, and it was seriously affecting my health and happiness.

What are your top three values?

Do they match the day-to-day practice of the organisation that you currently work for?

If not, what steps can you take to bridge the gulf?

Illustration copyright of  Robert Price

Copyright of Robert Price

True beliefs trump fad worship

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about values and ethos. It’s been a month where recent announcements have led to whole cohorts of children being entered for exams and then withdrawn again. I don’t want to write specifically regarding early entries, as I feel much has been written about those subjects and there is no real ground for me to cover. See Kev Bartle  and John Tomsett  for well written and considered blog posts offering differing views on that topic from a school leader’s point of view.

Instead, as a result of this and other more personal events, I’ve been increasingly pondering the ‘why’ of what we do as school leaders. As time passes I realise that, for me, I must keep returning to my own ethos and aims for being in education. If I do not know what they are, as a leader, how can I ask others to follow me? How can I prevent myself ricocheting from fad to fad? How can I have any credibility and command respect? Anecdotal reports of teachers working in schools doing pointless tick box admin exercises and changing policies or practices on a whim based upon Ofsted pronouncements are sadly commonplace. They smack of Heads  and leadership teams who have lost sight of their core purpose or who never really had one in the first place, except perhaps to further their own career.

My personal driver  is to improve educational outcomes for all, irrespective of background or ability. I believe that every local school should be a good school and that all children within a school deserve a great education, irrespective of who they draw on the teacher lottery. Sure, it’s easy to get lost in the day to day but, ultimately, I must come back to this and it needs to inform my professional decisions. As a leader, I cannot fully realise this goal without inspiring others. Thus my thinking has evolved to ensure that I try my best to make it as easy as possible to enable staff in my care to deliver these excellent educational outcomes for students. Teaching is a demanding job and my experience so far is that the majority of teachers want to do it well (although some may lack the tools). I need to have high expectations of my staff but, as they are educated professionals, I must also trust them and listen to what they have to say, and not request foolishness that makes an already difficult job needlessly harder.

Recently, I was asked at interview to explain my ethos and professional influences so far. I was then probed on it for half an hour. I thought this a little odd at the time, as did the other candidates, but with the ever-changing educational landscape I understand it is essential.  Leadership teams in any organization must have a clear and shared vision which underpins everything they do. Otherwise they can be pulled in all directions and become ineffective. In recruitment, understanding a leaders’ core purpose can help to predict how they will interact with staff and students. On the other side of the table, a candidate talking to a Head with a very clear vision and core beliefs that permeate the organisation can quickly work out whether they would be happy working there.

Leaders in education must keep returning to their core purpose. Michael Gove, love him or hate him, is a conviction politician. He is almost evangelical in his zeal to raise standards, although his methods may not be to everybody’s taste.

For me, teaching and learning is the heart of driving up outcomes and achieving my own aims as outlined previously. There are short-term fixes, which are sometimes necessary, but ultimately for sustained improvement we must ensure that children are taught well and learn. I don’t particularly care how, that’s up to individual teachers’ professional judgement. It’s the job of senior leaders to create conditions for this to happen, not prescribe the minutiae of how it should be done. Effective teaching ought to lead to the obvious by-products of improved results and positive inspection reports from Ofsted. If it doesn’t, then I have to ask myself what are league tables and Ofsted measuring and why should we give them any credence?

So finally, I am challenging myself to remain true to my core beliefs. There will always be difficult decisions to make, but if a decision was right for students last week why is it suddenly not so this week? Honesty with ourselves, our staff and our students goes along way and reputation for  integrity is hard won but can be easily thrown away. The communities we work with can handle mistakes and temporary failure (on the way to greater things)  if we gain and maintain their trust and they know we are trying to do the right thing.

Let’s do it our way

Why do we never learn as teachers? It seems that not a month goes by without us angrily reacting to something that the current Secretary of State for Education has said or that the current Chief Inspector of Ofsted has pronounced.

We get riled by a press release or a headline in the national press, feel unloved and misunderstood and then say our morale is low. Then our unions bluster and put out counter statements which go unheeded or continue to flog horses long since dead (Academy resistance anybody?)

It’s always the same, but for me it’s odd that as people paid to educate others, we don’t learn form our mistakes and stop exhibiting behaviour that clearly doesn’t work.

Yes, an education secretary will say something unhelpful and uniformed- most of them have never been teachers nor have many of their advisers and the vast majority of the people working at the DfE. We know this. Yes, an education secretary will use education as a political football and try to score points against the other side. It’s what they do, education, like health is political. We are men and women of the world, we are sophisticates, we know this. Yes they will say that standards are too low. If they don’t then it means the previous administration did a good job, which ruling party in their right mind wants that message to get out? We’ve been around, we’ve played the game a few times we know this.

Oh, but it seems we don’t…

Lets be clear here. There was no golden age of education. It wasn’t better before. There was time when standards for many were too low for too many. That time has gone. The school work force is more skilled and professional than ever before. Talk to any body who has been in education for 15 years + they will tell you that. Education is improved and there is scope for it to improve further. We are in a more accountable age in all spheres, that’s life and its as it should be- its kids futures we are dealing with here.

I’d also like to address the issue of morale. No, it’s not helpful for prominent people to say negative things about our profession. It’s a bit of a shot in the foot for the same people to then turn around and say we want to attract the brightest and best into the profession. However a person far away in Whitehall or on the Today programme, or writing in a broadsheet does not affect the morale of a classroom teacher. You know what does? A head teacher who creates a culture mistrust and undue bureaucracy . A senior leadership team who doesn’t support staff with issues of behaviour or seeks to blame rather than working with staff to support and develop together. Leadership teams who forget that repeatedly measuring a thing doesn’t improve it and use Ofsted as a stick to create fear cultures and increase stress with nonsense such as ‘Mocksteds’ . These are the things that make teachers leave the profession. Not a person on TV talking about what he thinks he knows.

They don’t know. We know. We live it. We lead our schools and we teach our kids and we do it day in day out. We’ll be doing it when they move to another post. Let them say what they will. We’ll keep one ear open and tick their compulsory boxes but we’ll discard what doesn’t work in our own contexts with the children we teach. We’ll do the rest our way and enable kids to learn. We’ll form alliances with other education professionals who feel the same way and we’ll keep getting better. We’ll put our energy into that rather than whistling into the wind.

Don’t do it for the money

From time to time jobs come up in schools. Maybe your school, maybe other schools. Perhaps a TLR with additional responsibilities or perhaps a completely new role. Whatever it is can I just say, if the only reason you are applying is that it’s more money than you get paid now, don’t do it.

Most jobs in teaching don’t really pay enough to match the extra time commitment and responsibility that additional or new roles command. That’s a fact. Talk to heads of department, heads of year, gifted and talented coordinators etc if you don’t believe me. If it’s a big enough role you may get a slightly reduced timetable but its never really adequate.

So why apply then? Lots of reasons. To expand your skills base, to have more impact, to improve outcomes for more kids, because you feel you can do it better than the jokers you’ve seen do it before. There are as many motivators as the are people but if you only apply for the extra money or a shiny new title with a bit more status, you’ll be disappointed, stressed and frustrated.

The death of teachmeets?

Teach meets started as an informal gathering of teachers, hoping to share ideas and learn from each other. They we free and informal and for teachers, by teachers. Some presentations were good, some were bad, some useful some less so but they were democratic and practitioner- led. They were the antidote to conferences and courses that cost £100s of pounds ( themselves and in cover) often led by people whose job it seems at times it to make money from our educational system.

Teachers wanted to listen to professionals who still taught and who taught kids like ours. In schools like ours. With timetables like ours. We were tired of hearing the latest eduguru tell us stuff that wasn’t directly applicable in our classrooms. We were tired of going to conferences and hearing the same key- note speakers put minutely different spins on the same message. We were tired of missing our classes to go on courses that didn’t really impact our teaching.

The first time I went to a TM it was a breath of fresh air, teachers who had given up heir personal time to develop professionally, you could feel the energy and good will in the room. I felt invigorated but even then I noticed some signs that the honey moon couldn’t last. A few presentations were barely masked pitches for educational services. Commercial companies had caught wind of teach meets and seen it as a new way to market. Some we probably worried that teachers would stop going to traditional paid for conferences and decided to jump on the teach meet bandwagon.

Now I wonder if we as a profession are allowing teach meets to become the very things that we railed against? As a causal and fairly novice observer (attender of 2 teachmeets and observer pf others via Twitter) some TMs are starting to look depressingly the same, the same star presenters, often superbloggers plugging their forthcoming books, the same keynote speakers ( now starting to migrate from the laid for conference circuit) and in some cases even the same audiences.

Today I note that Osiris, an educational course provider has, out of the goodness of its heart supposedly started a website where people can

This isn’t what the revolution was meant to be? Was it?