There’s long been a perception that private school teachers earn far higher salaries than teachers working for state schools.
Not so, says the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa).
“The general belief that state salaries are lower than independent school salaries is not true,” says John Lobban, director of membership and operations for Isasa.
“You need to remember that a 30-35% increase should be added to state school salaries for the guaranteed benefits that are provided, namely, a pension contribution, medical aid contribution and housing subsidy. Many lower-fee independent schools simply cannot afford to pay these benefits and the result is that salaries at this level tend to be lower,” Lobban explains.
Primrose Mathe, who works for recruiting company Placements in Education, agrees. “Benefits in state schools are far more comprehensive, while private school teachers would be lucky to receive medical aid and pension. Even where a teacher is earning less in a state post, the benefits are better,” she tells Moneyweb.
“I deal with a number of teachers who want to leave state schooling out of the belief that they will get a fat salary in a private school. While this may have been true pre-2008, the global financial crisis has changed things,” Mathe continues.
This is largely due to the fact that schools are fee-based. If parents cannot afford to pay school fees, it follows that the school, whether state or private, will find itself in a difficult position.
So what is an entry-level state salary for a newly graduated teacher? According to salary scales from the Department of Basic Education (DBE), which took effect from April 1 2013: R185 184 per annum.
This is up from R162 354 in 2011 and doesn’t include medical aid, pension and housing subsidy contributions, which would be made by the DBE in addition to this amount.
Director for labour relations and conditions of service at the Department, Willie Kutumela, recommends adding an additional 37% for these benefits. This would bring the starting salary of a state schoolteacher with a relative education qualification value (REQV) of 14 and above to R253 702. 08 p.a., or R21 141. 84 a month.
An REQV 14+ includes a postgraduate education degree, usually a Bachelor of Education (BEd) or a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).
Not bad for a first job. Admittedly, however, the annual salary increases are not huge, which means that the earnings potential of a government school teacher is likely more limited than workers in other sectors.
Kutumela explains that state teacher salaries increase annually as more teaching experience is gained, so that a senior teacher with around 18 years’ experience would earn a minimum of R221 946 annually and a maximum of R419 085, excluding the additional amount added for employee benefits.
A teacher with 35 years’ experience (master teacher) would earn the same maximum amount, but a minimum of R261 132 p.a.
Salary ranges applicable to educator posts
|Job title||Salary ranges (R)|
|Teacher (REQV 14+)||162 354||173 718||185 184||367 419||393 138||419 085|
|Senior teacher (REQV 14+, 18 years’ experience)||194 190||207 783||221 496||367 419||393 138||419 085|
|Master teacher (REQV 14+, 35 years’ experience)||228 939||244 965||261 132||367 419||393 138||419 085|
|Departmental head||204 102||218 388||232 803||510 240||545 958||581 991|
|Deputy principal||243 021||260 031||277 194||552 504||591 180||630 198|
|P1 principal||204 102||218 388||232 803||439 494||470 259||501 297|
|P2 principal||243 021||260 031||277 194||510 240||545 958||581 991|
|P3 principal||290 685||311 034||331 563||586 494||627 549||668 967|
|P4 principal||335 958||359 475||383 199||604 257||646 554||689 226|
|P5 principal||414 021||443 001||472 239||622 581||666 162||710 130|
Source: Department of Basic Education
*P1-P5 refers to the size of the school.
“Top state schools that can afford to top-up what the DBE is paying could pay more, especially when it comes to academic subjects such as maths, science and languages,” says Mathe. These subjects tend to garner higher salaries, due to the qualifications needed to teach them and the scarcity of teachers in these areas.
This decision would be made by the school governing body and depend on factors such as how wealthy the school is, whether parents are paying fees on time and how effectively the school is being run.
Teachers with three-year teaching diplomas or one or two years of teacher training earn less than those who are fully qualified (reflected in the table). Although by law all teachers must be registered with the South African Council for Educators (SACE) and hold either a BEd or PGCE in order to qualify for full registration, there are still teachers who, as a function of Apartheid-era Bantu education, have only certificates or diplomas.
But Kutumela is confident that their numbers are dwindling and Mathe confirms that in her experience, the state has worked hard over the past two years to get rid of unqualified teachers.
The SACE is prepared to grant provisional registration for graduates who are still busy with their studies.
Weighing it all up
Mathe says that for the most part, private schools are matching state school salaries, but this varies from school to school. “Private is private. If it’s a small school that is struggling because parents are not paying fees, then teachers will not be getting the salaries they should be getting.”
Lobban says that independent schools generally struggle to compete with state schools on teacher salaries, but admits that salaries vary enormously between independent schools, making comparison difficult.
“In comparison with the Isasaa salary survey of some 400 schools, the state salaries at different levels tend broadly to match the median of independent school salaries, with teachers in the first years of teaching tending to earn more in a state school and more experienced teachers tending to earn more in independent schools,” he explains.
“But this is a generalisation. The most significant factor influencing the differences is the socio-economic circumstances of the independent school. Generally, lower-fee independent schools pay lower salaries than the state sector, while higher-fee independent schools pay higher salaries.”
He highlights qualifications and number of years’ experience as the two drivers determining teacher salaries. “State salaries do not differ between primary and high schools at post level one. In independent schools, one tends to find primary school salaries a little lower. Some independent schools provide performance-based salary increases, which becomes a significant driver over time,” he says.
Notes Kutumela of state schools, “Teacher salaries are based on qualification, experience and performance”. The DBE runs an integrated quality management system, which annually evaluates the performance of teachers and makes room for salary increases based on teacher performance.
Aside from salary, Lobban points out that there are many other factors to take into account. “A recent survey concluded that remuneration came fourth in terms of importance as a factor for employment. Many teachers tend to choose independent schools for reasons other than remuneration, such as the smaller classes; a more relaxed atmosphere; greater freedom with the curriculum; less red tape and paper work; and an educational or religious philosophy more suited to their own position. Often, one or more of these factors are more important than remuneration, so long as the figures are not too far apart,” he says.
Mathe notes that most of the teachers she has dealt with say that private schools are better resourced. “Private schools attract parents through better facilities. In state schooling, you have to ask for everything. But this depends a lot on the proficiency of the school’s governing body,” she adds.