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A pay rise for teachers could have significant impact on results and wellbeing for UK pupils

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A new study by Dr Joshua Fullard for the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change at the Institue for Social and Economic Research, has found that improving teaching pay can have an important and positive impact on their pupils.

The study looks at 27 years of data on teaching pay and compares student performances over time.

It comes as data shows applications to teacher training more than doubled during the pandemic.

Dr Fullard said: ‘Just because teachers are intrinsically motivated does not, necessarily, mean that they would not respond to a salary increase in some way that is beneficial to their pupils. This is due to the fact that, in many occupations, we observe that higher salaries often lead to employees working harder, or more productively, in some quantifiable way. One of the most famous examples of this is when Henry Ford (founder of Ford Motor Company) introduced the ‘five-dollar day’ in 1914 which, in the process of more than doubling wages, resulted in an increase in productivity of up to 70 percent .

While the effect size is fairly modest, which is what we would expect from an intrinsically motivated workforce, we find that teachers do respond to higher salaries and this leads to an improvement in their pupils’ test scores. Specifically, over an academic year, a 10 percent increase in teachers’ wages has roughly the same the same effect that existing evidence has found for a 1 pupil reduction in class size and found for a one hour increase in weekly lesson time.

As teachers play an important role in the development of a wide range of their pupils’ skills, it is important to understand the role teachers’ wages have on other skills developed in school. Indeed, we find that teachers’ wages also affect their pupils’ well-being, measured by enjoyment of learning.

Using 27 years of labour force data we also assess the relative attractiveness of teaching. We find no strong evidence that teachers could earn more in an occupation outside of teaching. Interestingly, we find that teachers who do leave tend to sort into lower, or similarly paying, jobs. This includes teachers with a degree in a STEM subject. This suggests that either teaching is a strong negative signal on the labour market (i.e. the job market doesn’t reward teachers) teachers are misinformed about their outside option or teachers who leave the profession are not motivated by money.’

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Read Josh’s blog for the British Educational Research Association here

Read about this research in this exclusive with the Times Education Supplement