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Leadership pay

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Last updated on 8 February 2018
School types: All · School phases: All
In-depth article
How do we determine leadership pay under the new arrangements? This article outlines the recommended process for determining leadership pay for new appointments, or where responsibilities have changed significantly. It also looks at examples from the DfE of how to use the revised framework.

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  1. 1 Overview
  2. 2 Defining the role and determining the headteacher group
  3. 3 Setting the indicative pay range
  4. 4 Deciding the starting salary and individual pay range
  5. 5 Examples
  6. 6 Pay differentials
  7. 7 Leadership pay spine points have been removed
  8. 8 Permanent discretionary payments have been removed
  9. 9 Increases in pupil and staff numbers

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  • 4 external links


The rules for determining the pay of teachers in maintained schools are set out in the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD). Academies and free schools can set their own pay and conditions, but may choose to follow the STPCD.

Headteachers, deputy headteachers and assistant headteachers will be paid on a leadership pay range, which is between £39,374 and £116,738 per year.

SLT salary ranges vary according to role and school size

Senior leadership team (SLT) salary ranges vary according to role and school size. Teachers’ pay is also determined by location, as there are separate values for ranges for:

  • England and Wales, excluding the London area
  • Inner London
  • Outer London
  • The London fringe area

When to determine the pay range

The framework for leadership pay introduced in 2014 should only be used to determine pay where:

  • There is a new appointment on or after 1 September 2014
  • Responsibilities of existing appointments have changed significantly on or after that date

Schools can also choose to review pay for those on the leadership pay range if they decide that this is required to maintain consistency either with:

  • Pay arrangements for new appointments to the leadership group made on or after 1 September 2014, or
  • Pay arrangements for a member or members of the leadership group whose responsibilities changed significantly on or after that date

Otherwise, the STPCD does not allow for schools to choose to review pay ranges for those on the leadership group appointed before 1 September 2014.

This is explained in section 2, paragraphs 4.1 and 4.2 of the 2017 STPCD.

Quickreads icon

QuickRead: leadership pay

We have summarised when to review pay, and the process for determining leadership pay in just one page in one of our QuickReads.

You can read it and download it to print out here.

Setting pay for new appointments

The DfE recommends following a three-stage process when setting pay for new appointments to leadership posts.

We look at this process in more detail below. The 3 stages are:

  1. Defining the role and determining the headteacher group
  2. Setting the indicative pay range
  3. Deciding the starting salary and individual pay range

Defining the role and determining the headteacher group

The first stage involves defining the job and identifying the broad pay range for the role. Advice on this stage begins on page 31 of the DfE’s guidance.

Section 2 paragraph 9.2 of the STPCD (linked to above) says that for leadership group posts, the relevant body must determine an appropriate pay range, taking into account:

  • All of the permanent responsibilities of the role
  • Any challenges specific to the role
  • All other relevant considerations

Determining the headteacher group

Section 2 paragraph 5.1 of the STPCD says that for headteacher posts, the relevant body must assign the school to a headteacher group. This is done by calculating the total unit score for the school. The headteacher group corresponds to a broad pay range.

According to paragraph 6.2, the unit score is calculated as follows:

Key Stage (KS)

Units per pupil
For each pupil in the preliminary stage and each pupil in KS1 or KS2   7
For each pupil in KS3 9
For each pupil in KS4 11
For each pupil in KS5 13

In addition:

  • Each pupil with a statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan must, if in a special class consisting wholly or mainly of such pupils, be counted as 3 units more than they would be counted as otherwise. If not in a special class, they will only be counted as 3 units more where the relevant body decides to do so
  • Each pupil who attends for no more than half a day on each day for which the pupil attends the school must be counted as half as many units as they would otherwise be counted

A different calculation for special schools is set out in paragraph 7 (pages 13-15). Another of our articles looks at how to determine the headteacher group in special schools.

The correspondence between total unit score and headteacher group is set out on page 11 of the STPCD as follows:

Total unit score Headteacher group
Up to 1,000 1
1,001 to 2,200 2
2,201 to 3,500 3
3,501 to 5,000 4
5,001 to 7,500 5
7,501 to 11,000 6
11,001 to 17,000  7
17,001 and over 8

The pay ranges for the different regions of England and Wales which correspond to each headteacher group are also set out on page 11.

Headteacher group for headteachers with permanent responsibility for more than one school

Paragraphs 6.6 and 7.9 of the STPCD say that where the headteacher is appointed as a headteacher of more than one school on a permanent basis, the relevant body of the headteacher’s original school must determine the headteacher group by calculating the total unit score of all the schools for which the headteacher is responsible.

Pay ranges for deputy and assistant headteachers

Paragraph 9.4 of the STPCD says that pay ranges for deputy and assistant headteachers should only overlap with the headteacher’s pay range in “exceptional” circumstances.

The maximum of a deputy or assistant headteacher pay range must not exceed the maximum of the headteacher group for the school.

Page 32 of the DfE's guidance (linked to above) advises that for leadership group posts other than the headteacher, governing boards should "consider how the role fits within the wider leadership structure of the school".

There is more information about pay differentials in section 6 below.

Setting the indicative pay range

Page 32 of the DfE’s guidance explains that at this stage, the governing board should:

... consider the complexity and challenge of the role in the particular context of the school and make a judgement on pay in light of this.

Factors such as recruitment and retention, permanent additional responsibilities and long-term provision to other schools should be taken into account at this point.

For other leadership roles, governing boards should consider how the pay of other leadership roles will be set in accordance with the level set for the headteacher.

The STPCD says in section 2, paragraph 9.2 that the relevant body must also ensure that the pay range leaves sufficient scope for performance-related progression over time.

Flexibility to go 25% beyond the headteacher group

Paragraph 9.3 of the STPCD says that pay ranges for headteachers should not normally exceed the maximum of the headteacher group.

However, if the relevant body determines that circumstances “specific to the role or candidate” warrant a higher than normal payment, it can choose to increase the pay range by a maximum of 25% above the headteacher group.

On pages 32-33, the DfE’s guidance suggests additional factors that governors might take into account, such as:

  • The context and challenge arising from pupil needs
  • A high degree of complexity and challenge
  • Additional accountability not reflected at stage one
  • Factors that may impede the school’s ability to attract a field of appropriately qualified and experienced candidates

If the relevant body wishes to go more than 25% beyond the headteacher group, external independent advice must be sought, and a business case made and agreed by the governing board.

Deciding the starting salary and individual pay range

The third stage is the determination of the starting salary for the individual who is to be offered the post.

Page 34 of the DfE’s guidance says that governing boards will want to set the starting salary in the light of candidate-specific factors, such as the extent to which the candidate meets the requirements for the post.

Again, it will be important to ensure that there is scope for performance-related progression.


Annex A, on pages 45-46 of the DfE guidance document, includes examples of how the three-stage process for setting pay may be used.

For instance, the first worked example uses the case of a school with 200 pupils on roll that was judged as ‘good’ in its last inspection. The three-stage process is as follows:

  • At stage 1, the school is assigned to headteacher group 2, with a broad pay range of £46,799-£63,779
  • At stage 2, the governing body considers that there are no additional factors that need to be taken into account and decides to set the indicative pay range at £46,800-£54,600
  • At stage 3, having selected a candidate who meets all the requirements of the job specification, the governing body decides to set the salary on appointment at £47,500

The document sets out 6 worked examples in total.

Pay differentials

No requirements for pay differentials

The 2013 STPCD included requirements for pay differentials. These requirements were removed from the 2014 STPCD onwards.

There may be less incentive to progress to the leadership pay range if the pay ranges overlap

There are no rules that specifically prevent the pay ranges of senior leaders and classroom teachers overlapping.

However, a representative from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) advised against this. Roles in the leadership group have an extra level of responsibility, and this should be reflected in the pay range.

ASCL noted that there may be less incentive to progress to the leadership pay range if the pay ranges overlap.

Determining pay differentials

Tony Cook is one of our associate education experts. He said that ideally, there would be a reasonable gap between the salary of a senior leader and the salary of a classroom teacher.

What constitutes a reasonable gap will depend on the context of the school. This is a matter for the governing board to decide, taking into consideration staff members’ different responsibilities and levels of accountability.

Your school’s pay policy should set out how differentials are determined.

If there are concerns over pay differentials, the governing board may choose to carry out a review of the school's leadership structure and pay.

Leadership pay spine points have been removed

The mandatory leadership pay spine points found in the STPCD 2013 have been removed.

This is explained on page 47 of the DfE's guidance. Schools should have revised their pay and appraisal policies following the change to clarify their approach to making performance-based pay decisions for the leadership group.

A DfE representative confirmed that this change applies to all members of the SLT, and not just those who have had their pay set on or after 1 September 2014.

Permanent discretionary payments have been removed

The STPCD does not have provisions for the award of permanent discretionary payments.

Page 42 of the DfE’s guidance explains:

The expectation is that the new approach to setting pay for headteachers will make additional payments by means of allowances largely unnecessary.
The exception to this will be for temporary or irregular responsibilities or other very specific reasons which it is not appropriate to incorporate into permanent pay, such as housing or relocation costs.

Paragraph 10.1 of the STPCD says that additional payments are to be for “clearly temporary” responsibilities.

Paragraph 10.2 stipulates that the total sum of temporary payments in any school year must not exceed 25% of the headteacher’s annual salary.

Another of our articles has answers to FAQs about additional payments for headteachers.

Increases in pupil and staff numbers

We asked ASCL whether an increase in pupils and staff members must be reflected in increased pay for the leadership team.

A representative said that for academies, this depends on what is in the pay policy. If the pay policy links pay to pupil numbers then the salaries might have to be increased, but this should be discussed with the governing board.

For schools that follow the STPCD, an increase in pupil and staff numbers would not necessarily lead to a blanket increase in pay for all members of the SLT.

Instead, each role should be looked at in order to judge whether it has been impacted by the changes, and to what extent.


ASCL said that for headteacher pay, an increase in pupil numbers could change the headteacher group. 

In addition, when setting the pay range, there could be an argument that the increased number of pupils and staff members has increased the level of 'complexity and challenge' involved in the role, especially if a new phase has been added to the school.

If the headteacher's pay changes, the school may wish to review the pay of the other members of the leadership team in order to ensure consistency.

Deputy and assistant headteachers

For deputy headteachers and assistant headteachers, an assessment should be made about whether the changes have resulted in a significant change to the responsibilities of each post.

The Key has another article which looks at setting and reviewing the pay range for deputy and assistant headteachers in more detail.

School business managers

ASCL explained that the responsibilities of the school business manager (SBM) role should be looked at to see whether they have been affected by the expansion of the school.

There are no national pay ranges for SBMs and they are not paid under the STPCD. The Key has an article with more information about SBM salaries.

Sources and further reading

Tony Cook is an independent learning and development consultant. He has experience of teacher recruitment, developing training programmes and providing HR services to schools.

This article was updated in response to a question from the headteacher of a primary school in the east of England.

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