Teaching salary row over Tidemill headmaster

Mark Elms is the head teacher of Tidemill Primary School

Head teachers who earn more than the Prime Minister’s yearly salary of £142,500 are being criticised by the press today after Michael Gove, Education Secretary, declared a cap on future earnings in the education sector.

Mark Elms, head teacher of Tidemill Primary School in Lewisham has been lambasted in the Daily Mail and Telegraph newspapers this morning for his £276,000 pay packet.

The quoted salary is misleading as Mr Elms’s basic wage is in fact only £82,714.37 – far below the proposed cap. The additional £193,809 was made up of out-of-hours work, arrears payments from 2008/2009, and pay for his consultancy work on the City Challenge Programme, a Labour government strategy aimed at tackling under-achievement in disadvantaged areas.

Parents and pupils from Tidemill Primary have today rushed to Mr Elms’s defence in the light of recent remarks. Dean Barker, now 16, an ex-Tidemill pupil, said of Mr Elms: “He was a good teacher; he improved the school a lot.”

One mother told the BBC that Mr Elms ‘deserves every penny and more.’ After Mr Elms took over in 2001, he lifted Tidemill from near closure to the ‘outstanding’ status it reached in Ofsted 2008.

Mr Gove’s comments about capping teachers’ pay in the public sector appears inconsistent with previous remarks about Academy status for schools.

In February 2009, Gove said: “It’s of vital importance to give headteachers greater freedoms over who they hire and how they reward them, over the curriculum they choose to follow, over the school day, the ethos and the character of the school.”

He went on to say: “They should have the power to retain the best possible people in teaching. Let’s be clear that we live in an increasingly competitive world. The single most important thing is to raise the level of aspiration.”

Tidemill school is not an Academy and therefore its pay levels come under public scrutiny. In the future, under the Academy programme, teachers’ pay will not be monitored or figures released to the public.

Alisdair Smith from the Anti Academies Alliance said: “The crucial issue is that at least as part of the local authority system we found out about this. Under the Academies system we would never find out. It would be licence to allow head teachers to pay themselves what they want.”

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