A reaction to the College of Teaching’s announcement of the planned availability of academic journals for teachers

I was pleased to hear that teachers in England would have access to research literature.  And I was pleased also that the most charming Dr Vincent Lien who had campaigned for access to journals had been acknowledged in this.

My first question was, which journals and how many? But I will assume that access will be to a range of international education research journals and perhaps some subject specific journals.

When I was teaching and growing an interest in research, I wanted access to education research but academic journals were,  by and large, paywalled. Frustrating. Because I also became aware of the tidy profits that the small number of publishers made. In the 2000s though, you could get access to a 10-credit Open University course for around £100 and this would give you access to just about every academic journal for six months or so. Indeed 30-credit and 60-credit courses were affordable too and for a few hundred pounds you could get access for 12 to 18 months. That has all changed now, since the Coalition Government brought in its economic policy to rebalance the wealth of the 99 per cent to the coffers of the 1 per cent. OU courses are now at least double what they were.

This is something of a diversion, but nonetheless important, since my engagement with academic research when I was a teacher was just that ‘engagement’, making sense of theory and practice across a range of disciplines: sociology, psychology, anthropology etc. How could I make sense of my practice in the context of school, policy, the community and in my classroom? How do I understand learning as a social cognitive, biological and cultural phenomena? How could I develop what I did? What are the methodologies and methods for such inquiry?

I was engaging with ideas, theory, concepts as well as results and findings. I was engaged in a process of scholarship. It was time consuming, I gave a lot of my own time to it, as I have the habit of blurring my interests with my work which seems to have been with me always.

This is my concern. In the last ten years teachers’ workload and the intensity with which they work has increased considerable. Accountability has become increasingly pervasive and poor performance is increasingly treated punitaively, though the notion of ‘poor’ is spurious. It has lead to a system of performativity, in which prescribed practices are imposed in pedagogy and assessment. It is difficult for teachers to find the time to engage in research in a scholarly way, to reflect on ideas and concepts in relation to their own practice.

So it worries me that since Michael Gove’s education reforms, teachers are framed as consumers of research, that research provides definitive answers about practice and about the effectiveness of different approaches. In a post last Christmas I wrote about the Book of Intervention, a satirical presentation of the Education Endowment Fund’s (EEF) Toolkit. It was inspired by a visit to a general practitioner who, when I described my symptoms – a heavy cold, as I recall – perused a large volume of listed pharmaceuticals and then presented me with a prescription: medicine that is the result of a randomised control trial. The Michael Gove vision for education research, prompted by Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science, was that educational research should be ‘scientific’ and experimental. The EEF was established to do scientific educational research using randomised control trials. While educational researchers follow the scholarly principle of beginning their inquiry with a research question, the EEF begins with, in dogmatic fashion, a prescribed methodology.

Of course, this dovetails sweetly with Gove, Dominic Cummings and Policy Exchange’s freemarket neoliberal plan for state education. The codification of interventions and pedagogy, scientifically derived, reconstitute education as a quantifiable service and thus makes outsourcing and privatisation so much easier.

On the other hand, teaching is a complex undertaking, complex relationships and complex constructs of learning and behaviour. In spite of whether we know some aspect of teaching is good or bad, or whether we reduce education to a process of memorisation of facts, the complexity remains. Teachers cannot always replicate the practices that were identified in experimental studies, least those practices may not always be appropriate to the unique situation they find themselves. Constantly teachers are faced with varying experiences and interactions that calls upon their professional judgement.

It is my view that teachers should not be seen as consumers of research but as scholars in their own right, where they engage with research and use theory and knowledge to develop their own thinking in relation to teaching and learning. The latter is time consuming and requires more than referencing the EEF Toolkit, it is necessary to read mulitiple sources reflect and discuss with colleagues and academics.

So while I welcome the news that teachers will have access to journals, I think the Chartered College needs to be reminded that this and previous governments have set our schools on a neolberal course, one that has taken time and autonomy away from classroom teachers. It is the outsourcing and privatisation we should be opposing and we should be fighting together to ensure that teachers’ pay and conditions are adequate enough to permit them to be scholars in their own right and not simply consumers of research or worse still that teachers become deliverers of an experimentally-defined centralised curriculum.


The variation in teachers’ pay in large Multi Academy Trusts

Following my analysis in previous blogs of the variation in teachers’ pay in England, I now look at the difference between pay in the larger academy chains and Multi Academy Trusts (MATs). I used data from the National Statistics School workforce in England (November 2015) data again and identified which Trust schools were part of. I look particularly at the larger groups in both primary and secondary. I make comparisons with maintained schools and academies in general. I would add that this analysis is preliminary, but is consistent with the analysis in my previous blog posts.


The following chart shows mean salaries in primary schools in selected large academy chains. Data labels indicate the number of primary schools in the chain. The maintained and academies and free schools bars are the average by type for the whole state sector.


The following table includes conditional formatting comparing mean salary with maintained primary schools.meansalaryprimarybytrusttable2015


The following chart shows mean salaries in secondary schools in selected large academy chains. Data labels indicate the number of secondary schools in the chain. The maintained and academies and free schools bars are the average by type for the whole state sector.


The following table includes conditional formatting comparing mean salary with maintained secondary schools.meansalarysecondarytrusttable2015


It is notable that as with my previous analysis the mean salaries in academies and free schools is less than it is in maintained schools. This analysis shows that this is true for both primary and secondary schools. It is also important to note that MATs who appear to have higher than average pay are likely to have more schools in London. This is certainly true of the Harris Federation where the average pay is influenced by London weighting. However, it has to be acknowledged that the average inner London pay is higher than maintained schools. In my next post I will look at the differences in London and regional pay more closely.


Thanks to JL @dutaut who observed that AET have 67 schools but only 32 primaries and 30 secondaries: the missing ‘five’ are special schools. Where there are discrepancies like this the schools not included are special schools or all-through schools.

My data can be viewed here.



Why do teachers get paid more in maintained schools? – part 2

I have completed some further analysis using the underlying data from the National Statistics School workforce in England (November 2015) data. I have looked at the differences in teachers’ pay in secondary schools between Local Authority (LA) maintained schools and academies. The question raised in my previous blog was: why do teachers get paid more in maintained Schools than they do in academies?

Today’s analysis drew on the underlying data, where the mean full-time equivalent (FTE) pay for each school is presented. Questions where raised in respones to my previous blog about whether the differences was a result of different academy types i.e. converter academy [1] or sponsor led [2], or whether there was some effect owing to higher salaries in London, for example. My analysis here suggests not and it also supports the analysis I presented in my previous blog. It seems that if you are a teacher you are better off working in a maintained school.

The following chart summarises the difference between average pay in converter academies [1], sponsor-led academies[2], free schools and LA maintained schools.


The mean pay in maintained schools is over £700 greater than in academy converter schools and just over £1000 greater than sponsor-led academies.

Now to look at the differences in pay between the different types of schools types, in relation to London weighting, outer London weighting, London fringe pay and regional pay.

School type, mean FTE pay. London and regional weightings

With the exception of outer London and London fringe, teachers are paid more in maintained schools. In these area pay is higher in the small number of free schools, maintained school pay is comparable to pay in converter academies. Consistently the pay in sponsored academies is less than maintained schools.


I have not yet determined why this is from the data. However, my previous blogs on privatisation would suggest that when a service moves out of the public sector there is a natural downard pressure on teachers’ pay and conditions. Perhaps we are seeing this here.


[1] Converter academies are successful schools that have chosen to convert to academies in order to benefit from the increased autonomy academy status brings. They were introduced in 2010 as part of the Coalition government’s plan to broaden the academy programme and eventually enable all schools to become academies. www.politics.co.uk/reference/academies

[2] Sponsored academies are usually set up to replace under-performing schools with the aim of improving educational standards and raising the aspirations of, and career prospects for, pupils from all backgrounds including the most disadvantaged.

Sponsors are responsible for establishing the Academy trust, the governing body and the appointment of the head teacher. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds including businesses, faith communities, universities and individual philanthropists. Outstanding schools and academies may now also become sponsors themselves in order to help less able schools to improve.
Sponsors no longer have to make a financial contribution, or establish or support an endowment fund, as in the past. However, the Government has said any financial contribution made “at their own discretion” would be welcomed as it would provide opportunities for pupils that are not supported through government funding. www.politics.co.uk/reference/academies

Teachers’ pay in academies and LA maintained secondary schools

Based on the school workforce data for 2015, teachers get paid less working in secondary academies than they do working in LA maintained schools.


The difference looks relatively small on the above chart. But the differences are not trivial as shown below:teachersaldiff2015

Looking at the difference between teachers’ pay in LA maintained secondary schools and secondary academies as percentage of maintained school pay:


In 2015, in an LA maintained secondary a teaching will be earning between about 1.5 per cent and 3.0 per cent more than a teacher in a secondary academy.

It is somewhat different for leadership. They get paid more in an academy than they do in a LA maintained school.leadershipsaldiff

Looking at the differences in more detail:


On the basis of the 2015 workforce census data, teachers get paid less in academies than they do in LA maintained schools. While leadership gets paid more in academies.

Why is this? My analysis of privatisation would suggest that privatising capital leads to the exploitation of the workforce. Is this what we are seeing here?

The exploitation of teachers

In this series of blogs, I have shown that, as a result of the Education Reform Act 1988, the school system has effectively been privatised. This is not been a simple matter of withdrawing public funding from schools and allowing them to operate as independents within a free market. It is quite difficult to see this process, privatisation is obscured, it is difficult to see the existence of markets or the production of commodities. Indeed, when I imagine a market, I recall the Saturday market in East Retford where I grew up, where produce and goods were bought and sold, it was visible and tangible. School privatisation (and it might be by design) is obfuscated. It is understandable, therefore, that when the idea that schools have been privatised is suggested, it is contested in some quarters, because it is not easy to see the exchange of goods, services and money. Still a valid case can be made as I set out previously.

Yet the consequences of privatisation can be predicted, and the conditions of our system evaluated. In my last blog, I looked at the expansion of two Multi Academy Trusts (MATs), in terms of increasing capital, and I explained that capital, in a freemarket, necessarily has to be accumulated. But I will be developing this further in future blogs when I consider the conditions and consequences vis-à-vis teacher workload, pedagogy and practice, professional development, the recruitment and retention of teachers, scholarship and research, school culture and school improvement.

In this blog I will look at the labour processes within the privatised school system and will show how privatisation – as the private capitalisation of schools – leads to the undermining of teachers’ pay and conditions. But before looking at the exploitation argument, I want to restate my position about the privatisation of schools, but in a slightly different way. Hopefully to clarify, summarise and substantiate my argument in previous blogs. From this I develop an analysis of how teachers are necessarily exploited.

The components of privatisation are: the exchange of goods and services for money, and that businesses or enterprises employ capital for production of commodities or the delivery of services. In a state-owned or public system of schooling there are no markets, the national community pools resources to fund schools. The processes by which this service is defined and regulated is through democratic oversight. In a privatised system the rationale is different, a quasi-market is established and what were treated as resources. in the public system, becomes capital. In public systems resources fund provision, in a privatised system capital is used to produce or provide commodities. The delivery of knowledge commodities is a fundamental aspect of school privatisation, as I discussed previously.

In the privatised school system, the school can be considered as the means of production, or more precisely as a means of providing service and adding value. The following process – where Marx probably had a factory in mind – explains how surplus-value is generated by adding value to the component parts. The role of the teacher in a privatised school system is to add value, through instruction, by the transmission of knowledge: knowledge as a commodity [1].

The transformation of a sum of money into means of production and labour-power is the first phase of the movement undergone by the quantum of value which is going to function as capital. It takes place in the market in the sphere of circulation. The second phase of the movement, the process of production, is complete as soon as the means of production have been converted into commodities whose value exceeds that of their component parts, and therefore contains the capital originally advanced plus a surplus-value (Marx, 1981, p. 709).

In terms of labour, surplus-value is the additional work an individual has to do beyond that which they need to survive. In a state-owned public school, the value of labour is set by the state after having engaged in collective bargaining with the teaching unions. The cost of running schools is therefore the cost of teacher labour, support staff, resources and the maintenance of buildings and equipment. In a publicly-owned system any additional work done by the teacher is for the public good. In a privatised system any extra work becomes surplus-value and is given over to the capitalist enterprise in order to generate further capital. When the education system is privatised, it becomes capitalised, the laws of capital come into play – that is, there is a need for capital accumulation by the capitalised school enterprise:

… through capital surplus value is made, and from surplus value more capital. But the accumulation of capital presupposes surplus value; surplus value presupposes capitalistic production; capitalistic production presupposes the pre-existence of considerable masses of capital and of labour power in the hands of producers of commodities (Marx, 1981, p. 873).

As a result of privatisation, teachers are under pressure to create surplus-value; there are constant pressures to accumulate capital and so teachers work harder, for longer, they have to be more productive and at reduced levels of pay, unless teachers collectively protect their pay and conditions. These underlying forces are obscured, the extra commitment required of teachers is usually justified in terms of raising standards. The altruism and public-spirited ideals of teachers are exploited to ensure that surplus-value is being increased. This is not to paint headteachers and MAT CEOs as personally avaricious, but once located outside of the public realm, the nature of capital and capitalisation does its work and turns public and community service into the perverse system of inequality and exploitation as described by Marx.

What Marx demonstrated was that if a capitalist system is left unchecked, and to run its course, capital becomes concentrated, i.e. the wealthy become wealthier. But those working in the system become progressively poorer and exploited. When this idea is translated to public services in neoliberal reforms, the workforce becomes increasingly exploited. In the last four blogs I have presented an analysis of the effects of school policy, beginning with privatisation through the Education Reform Act (1988), then looking at the commodification of knowledge, followed by the capitalisation of schools. I have now completed this analysis, drawing on Marx, and show how this leads to a negative impact on teachers’ pay and conditions. In the next blog I will consider the extent to which this is borne out in reality.


1. As I pointed out in previous blogs, this is a reductive view of the situation to point out underlying forces and does not reflect the wider commitment demonstrated by the profession.


Ball, S. J. (2004). Education for Sale! The Commodification of Everything? The Annual Education Lecture 2004. King’s College, London. Retrieved from
Marx, K. (1981). Capital: a critique of political economy. (D. Fernbach, Trans.) (Vol. 1). London ; New York, N.Y: Penguin Books in association with New Left Review.