Fair’ salaries


The Lewisham head teacher, Marks Elms, of Tidemill Primary in Deptford, was paid a total of £204,303 last year (the press has misrepresented this as it does not all relate to a single year). The basic figure is £82,714 and he received a further £102,955, covering two years for his work in City Challenge, a ‘highly targeted drive to crack the cycle of under-achievement among disadvantaged children in primary and secondary schools’.

The uproar over this has been compounded by the self-important comments of the general secretary of the ATL teachers’ union, Mary Bousted, who said that the key issue when it comes to pay is ‘fairness’.

It is not a case of comparisons. What someone’s salary ought to be is a matter of subjective value. What somebody’s salary is can only be determined by negotiation between parties, informed by market forces. As it stands, we have to put up with having ivory tower dwellers spouting how much of taxpayers’ money should go on services providing for them. There is no ‘ought’ about it. The ‘is’ should be determined by supply and demand. Parents interviewed on Elms’s salary seemed to think he deserved what he got – the work he’d done for their children seemed reason enough. To compare his salary with that of investment bankers, graduate teachers and cleaners is meaningless; it serves only to highlight the distorted economic system which fuels comments such as Bousted’s.