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Last reviewed on 5 October 2021
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Make sure you know the rules about how to set pay ranges for headteachers, deputy headteachers and assistant headteachers, including in special schools, and when you can change their pay ranges. Read guidance on how you should set pay differentials and how to pay those in an acting role.

5 October 2021: we reviewed this article following the publication of the STPCD 2021. Leadership pay ranges have not changed, and the only changes we've made here are to format, and to clarify where in the STPCD certain information comes from.

The rules for determining leadership pay are set out in the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), on pages 11 to 19. We summarise these rules below.

The STPCD applies to:

  • Teachers in maintained schools
  • Teachers whose employment transferred to an academy at the point of conversion and whose terms have not since been renegotiated

As an academy you may choose to follow the STPCD when setting pay and conditions for new members of the leadership team, but you don't have to.

Schools that don't follow the STPCD should consult their contracts and pay policies for details of how leadership pay should be determined.

Understand the leadership pay range

Only headteachers, deputy headteachers and assistant headteachers can be paid on the leadership pay range. This is currently between £42,195 and £117,197 per year for most schools, with slightly higher amounts for schools in London and fringe areas (see the table on page 11 of the guidance, linked above).

The individual salary ranges set within this broader pay range will vary according to role, school size and location, as well as through determinations made by the 'relevant body', which is usually the governing board.

There are no longer statutory pay spine points within this range, but you may continue to use these if they're set out in your pay policy.

Pay for support staff on your leadership team

For support staff on your leadership team, such as school business managers, you may choose whether to pay them a similar rate to other members of the leadership team. Read more about pay for support staff on the leadership team for further advice on this.

Setting pay for new appointments: 3-stage process

Follow the 3-stage process described below when setting pay for new appointments to leadership posts. 

The process is recommended by the DfE, and set out on pages 32 to 36 of its non-statutory guidance. We also refer to pages 11 to 17 of the STPCD.

1. Define the role and determine the headteacher group

Your governing board should determine an appropriate broad pay range for roles on the leadership pay range, and it must take into account:

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

For headteachers

A headteacher group must be assigned to the school to determine the appropriate broad pay range. Use our spreadsheet to automatically calculate the headteacher group for your school, including if you're from a special school. 

For other leadership group posts

Your governing board should consider how the role fits within your wider leadership structure and how challenging it is in comparison with other roles. 

Pay ranges for deputy or assistant headteachers should only overlap the headteacher's pay range in exceptional circumstances. They must not exceed the maximum of the headteacher group for your school.

2. Set the indicative pay range

After identifying a broad pay range, your governing board should consider the complexity and challenge of the role in the particular context of your school, and how these should affect pay ranges.

This can be used to set an indicative pay range, which you can then advertise for the role.

When deciding on this range, your governors may take into account factors such as:

  • Allowances for recruitment and retention
  • Permanent additional responsibilities
  • Long-term provision to other schools

However, they must make sure that the pay range leaves enough scope for performance-related progression over time.

For headteachers

For headteachers, your governors should consider where to set the indicative pay range within the headteacher group pay range, making sure no 'double counting' takes place, such as if the responsibility for another school has already been reflected in stage 1, which determined their headteacher group.

Normally, the range should not exceed the maximum of the headteacher group, but in certain cases you can pay headteachers above the headteacher group.

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

3. Decide the starting salary and individual pay range

Finally, your governing board can determine the starting salary for the individual who is to be offered the post.

It should 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'll be important to make sure that there's scope for performance-related progression.

Reviewing pay ranges for existing roles

If responsibilities change 'significantly'

Your governing board should review pay ranges for those on the leadership pay range when the responsibilities of a post have changed significantly. It's up to your governors to determine what changes can be regarded as 'significant', in light of your school's circumstances and context.

The key consideration as to whether a change is 'significant' is the extent to which the change creates new levels of accountability and responsibility.

Your headteacher's pay range should be re-determined if it becomes necessary to change the headteacher group, such as if they become permanently responsible for an additional school.

Reviewing to maintain consistency

Your governors may also choose to review pay for those on the leadership pay range to maintain consistency with:

  • New appointments to the leadership pay range
  • Staff on the leadership pay range who have had their pay re-determined following a change in responsibilities

The above is set out on page 11 of the STPCD.

The STPCD doesn't outline any other situations where you can review pay ranges. This means that, even if a staff member has reached the top of their pay range, this in itself doesn't represent a valid reason to change their pay range.

Setting pay differentials

There are no required pay differentials between members of the leadership team, and between leadership team members and classroom teachers. However, you're likely to have these in place.

We set out guidance below from our associate education expert, Tony Cook, about setting these differentials.

Determining differentials between leadership team members

The pay range differential between leadership group posts will vary considerably between schools, so there's no 'recommended' differential.

However, it may be appropriate to have a reasonable gap between the ranges to recognise the different levels of responsibility, and to provide a progression incentive for those below the headteacher.

When setting differentials, your governing board should consider:

  • The school's long-term staffing budget
  • The job description and the level of responsibility for the post in the context of the leadership team as a whole
  • Where the headteacher's pay range sits in relation to the headteacher group
  • Whether the school has had difficulties in recruiting and retaining leaders, such as deputy headteachers
  • The specific challenges associated with the school and the role

Determining pay differentials with classroom teachers

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 your governing board to decide, taking into consideration staff members’ different responsibilities and levels of accountability.

Additional payments

Temporary responsibilities

Under the STPCD, you can award certain additional payments for temporary responsibilities that are in addition to the duties of the post.

Read more about the rules for awarding these additional payments

Recruitment and retention awards

The STPCD doesn't allow those on the leadership pay range to be awarded recruitment or retention payments other than as reimbursement for "reasonably incurred" housing or relocation costs.

All other recruitment and retention considerations for those on the leadership pay range, including non-monetary benefits, must be taken into account when determining their pay.

Read more about awarding recruitment and retention awards.

Paying those in an acting role

There are 2 options for paying a teacher acting temporarily as a headteacher, deputy headteacher or assistant headteacher:

  1. Appoint them to an acting role and pay them in the same way as someone in that role
  2. Have them remain in their current post and award them an acting allowance

We look at these options in more detail below.

1. Pay them as an acting headteacher

In cases such as the long-term absence of a leadership team member or when there's a vacant position, the school may choose to appoint an acting headteacher, deputy headteacher or assistant headteacher.

The definition for 'headteacher' and 'deputy headteacher' in the STPCD (see Annex 2: Interpretation, on page 56) covers those appointed as acting headteachers and acting deputy headteachers respectively. This means a teacher in these acting roles should have their pay set in the exact same way as those appointed to that role normally.

The definition of 'assistant headteacher' doesn't cover acting assistant headteachers, but we were told the same rules should apply here by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

2. Award them an acting allowance

A teacher who is ‘acting up’ as a leadership team member but is not appointed to an acting role can be paid an acting allowance (see paragraph 23, on page 28 of the STPCD).

Whether to pay this allowance should be decided by your governing board within a period of 4 weeks beginning on the day on which acting duties are first assigned and carried out.

If an acting allowance is paid, the teacher's total remuneration must not be lower than the minimum of the determined pay range of the role they’re acting up into.

If no allowance is paid, then your governors may reconsider the acting position at any time to determine whether an allowance should be paid. 


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

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