Know your numbers

03 July 2015

Leader logoPay progression data can reveal hidden – possibly discriminatory – trends, so it is vital to study it carefully, says Sara Ford.

Under the Equality Act 2010, schools must not directly discriminate against anyone because of a relevant protected characteristic. So when making pay decisions schools should take care to avoid discriminating against teachers on the grounds of these characteristics, which include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation.

The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 require schools to prepare and publish equality objectives and publish information to demonstrate that they are meeting their statutory duties.

In the context of teachers’ pay decisions, this means that the outcomes should be recorded and reported, taking account of the profile/characteristics of those who do not receive pay progression. The profile/characteristics of those who receive enhanced pay progressions should be reviewed and compared with those who did not. A similar review should take place of those who did and did not access the appeals process.

To do this you will need robust data.

The headline data for a school or Trust should be the number of staff eligible for pay progression and whether they received standard, enhanced or no pay progression.

You will then need to be able to break this down by full-timers and part-timers and by gender. The next key data split will be by pay range, and you should also record and assess those staff who apply to access the upper pay range.

So far so relatively straightforward and most payroll systems will be geared up for this. But what you really need in order to meet your obligations is to be able to split by ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and age. The issue is further complicated for those multi-academy trusts (MATs) that have more than one payroll provider. MATs will also need to do a Trust-wide breakdown and then by school so that they can check for consistency of approach as a single employer.

Just because this is difficult doesn’t mean you can ignore it. And for those who did the exercise this year the results were revealing and allowed them to investigate potential anomalies.

Further investigation
In one academy chain the overall figures looked okay with 69 per cent of eligible staff progressing. Yet when they looked at their individual academy data it varied considerably from one school where only 29 per cent of teachers received pay progression to more than ten of their schools where 100 per cent of staff got progression. Of course, further investigation may show that this is exactly the right outcome but the progression data wasn’t in line with school outcomes so it warranted further investigation.

As a protected characteristic age can often be overlooked but the data from a number of the large MATs showed that staff of more than 50 years of age were significantly less likely to receive pay progression than their counterparts. In one Trust, 43 per cent of staff aged 50-plus received pay progression against a trust average of 63 per cent, and other chains show a similar 20 per cent differential. Again, further investigation may show that each individual decision is appropriate, but as an employer you need to know if there is a potential issue.

On the statistics I have seen there doesn’t seem to have been much of a difference between the pay progression of male and female staff but part-timers seem to be doing less well than their full-time counterparts. One chain reported 35 per cent of their part-time staff received pay progression against 67 per cent of full-time staff and similar figures have been reported elsewhere.

The availability of ethnicity data has been sparse but a small number of Trusts did collect it. In one, the preliminary data showed that of the non-white British staff eligible for progression on the main and upper pay range 55 per cent were not successful, compared with 32 per cent of white British staff. As a bald stat this may look alarming but further investigation may again show that the individual decisions are sound. What’s key is that the Trust has collected the data and is investigating to ensure that the processes they have followed have been fair, transparent and robust.

So you need to ensure that you can do your own analysis for the 2014-15 appraisal year and need to prepare your HR systems now. But remember that this will be a one-year snapshot and you should also look in future years to review year-on-year comparisons to see if any trends are emerging that may identify potentially discriminatory practices or procedures.

Finally, it is worth considering what this data may tell you about a prospective employer should you be considering a career move in the future. Pay progression for those on the leadership pay range varied considerably among the large academy chains, going from 20 per cent to 92 per cent of those eligible for progression.

It is all very well agreeing a good starting salary and attractive pay range, but if you’re only going to get pay progression once every five years, you may want to reconsider your options…

Sara Ford is ASCL Pay, Conditions and Employment Specialist

Find out more
For more information, see the Department for Education (DfE) guidance paper online at