Addressing the issue of inequitable pay for school business leaders

By Hayley Dunn
Business Leadership Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders
School business leaders are among the many education staff facing the immediate prospect of a below-inflation pay award which represents a real-terms salary cut. But some business leaders are also affected by the longer-term issue of inequitable pay, conditions and recognition compared to others in school leadership positions.

The Department for Education recently launched its School resource management: building a stronger system strategy, setting out details of its resource management and business leader-focused initiatives. The strategy includes some recognition of the vital role played by school business leaders, for example, incorporating a statement that sets an expectation for business knowledge to be at the centre of leadership decision-making. This is welcome, but should have gone further by setting an expectation for equitable pay and conditions.
The increasing number and scale of academy trusts in the education system has afforded greater flexibility on the pay and conditions of school business leaders. Remuneration packages offered to school business leaders vary greatly, with differentials on pay, benefits and conditions. This is in part because of the breadth and depth of the role, which varies from school to school, trust to trust.
However, whilst we recognise these differences, there are basic principles employers can follow and apply to ensure their business leader is paid fairly for the role they undertake.
What is ASCL’s position on business leaders pay and conditions?
ASCL’s position is clear and set out in our position statements and our Blueprint for a Fairer Education System. School business leaders should be paid in parity with other leadership colleagues, pay should at least keep pace with inflation and there’s a need for a better financial settlement from the government so that schools can afford the costs.
Pay parity in practice usually means the nearest equivalent pay range on the NJC or other locally agreed pay scale. Whilst they may not align exactly the principle is to recognise the level of seniority and responsibility across the school or trust.
There are, of course, other terms and conditions to consider, for example, annual leave, working hours, sick pay, maternity pay, and others, in line with the same principle of equitability and the nearest best fit.
How does ASCL influence and bargain?
ASCL representatives use position statements and the Blueprint, for a range of influencing activities, including discussions with the Department for Education’s ministers and civil servants.
Employer engagement colleagues undertake the fundamental trade union function of collective bargaining, using position statements to influence employer policies and processes.
Our communications supporting and promoting business leaders equivalence are shared with the broad church that is the ASCL membership of 22,000 individuals from across the spectrum of leadership roles. Our links with other professional associations and unions through our stakeholder engagement are also essential.
A key member benefit is providing individual one-to-one support for business leader members, via our hotline team, which includes providing specialist support, advice on new employment contracts, negotiating on current levels of pay and/or conditions, and issues affecting employment. ASCL’s specialism in promoting the interests of business leaders covers many areas of advice, support, and influence, that are pertinent to individual members’ employment.
Negotiating with your employer
It is essential that your employer gives proper and due consideration to both the job description and person specification for your position. These two documents inform most decisions on pay and conditions and should be the first element you review.
Here are some other points to consider:
  • Where does the post fit within the context of other leadership roles?
  • Does the role have equivalent status to that of other senior leaders?
  • Is the role equivalent with (for example) the deputy or assistant head?
  • What is the balance of leadership and management responsibilities expected of the role?
If you feel your pay does not reflect the role and responsibility, we recommend putting together a well thought through business case, with benchmarks and comparators and request a re-evaluation.
If you would like support with putting together a business case, or have any concerns about your employment, please do not hesitate to contact hotline on 0116 299 1122.
Posted: 03/08/2022 13:01:48