Do higher salaries lead to better teachers?

New research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies explores the question of whether offering higher teacher salaries improves pupil attainment, and finds little evidence that it does.

Estimating the impact of teachers’ pay on pupil attainment is difficult as salaries tend to reflect the experience of the teacher, therefore making it difficult to separate the impact of teacher pay from teacher experience.

However, the authors of this study have dealt with this problem by comparing pupil attainment in primary schools close to the London “fringe boundary” (on the outskirts of the city). Teachers inside this boundary receive a London weighting – around £1,000 extra each year. The researchers compared schools that were broadly comparable in pupil composition, but either side of the boundary.

The results showed little evidence that higher teacher salaries increase pupil attainment in English and maths at the end of primary school. In fact, the difference in pupil attainment between schools on either side of the pay boundary is very close to zero for both English and maths.

The authors conclude that if individual schools offered salary differentials on this scale, they would not necessarily attract more effective teachers. They also argue that there is a remarkable lack of clear evidence about which combination of measures is likely to be most effective in attracting more high quality teachers into the profession or in attracting the best teachers to particular schools.

Source: Does Offering Higher Teacher Salaries Improve Pupil Attainment? (2014), Institute for Fiscal Studies (online ‘observations’ series).

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