You are here:

Last updated on 19 September 2017
Ref: 3377
School types: All · School phases: All

What role do governors play in headteacher pay progression? We look at the role of the governing board in determining headteacher pay progression. We also set out how pay progression should be determined under the STPCD, and refer to advice from two of our associate education experts.

Governors' role

Maintained schools

Governing boards of maintained schools are responsible for determining a pay policy for the school in line with the STPCD

Governing boards of maintained schools have a duty to: 

  • Appraise the performance of the headteacher against the relevant standards and their objectives
  • Make a recommendation on the headteacher's pay, where relevant

Governing boards are also responsible for determining a pay policy for the school in line with the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).

This is set out in paragraph 95 in section 6.5.7 and paragraphs 99 and 100 in section 6.5.8 of the Governance Handbook. 


Academies are free to determine their own appraisal process for staff but may adopt the requirements for maintained schools if they wish.

They may also set their own pay and conditions for staff, except where staff have been transferred under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) arrangements. In these cases, the STPCD will remain relevant to any teachers whose contract has not been renegotiated.

This is set out in paragraph 94 in section 6.5.7 and paragraph 103 in section 6.5.8 of the Governance Handbook. 

question mark icon

Approving pay recommendations

A representative from the school governance unit at the DfE confirmed that the appraisal panel does not make the final decision on pay in maintained schools.

The review panel provides a recommendation on pay that is then voted on and ratified by the full governing board or the pay committee.

The approval of the recommendation should not be delegated to the headteacher or appraisal committee.

Under the STPCD

The process for the annual determination of the headteacher's salary in maintained schools is set out in the STPCD.

This will also apply to academy headteachers whose contracts were transferred under the TUPE arrangements, as explained in the section above.

Pay decisions must be linked to performance

Decisions on pay progress must be related to individual's performance, as assessed through arrangements in accordance with appraisal regulations, as outlined above.

However, for headteachers not subject to these regulations, such as those working in academies, the decision on pay progression must be related to performance relative to agreed objectives on school leadership and pupil progress.

Pay decisions must be clearly attributable to the performance of the individual. Paragraph 11.2(e) of the STPCD adds:

Sustained high quality of performance having regard to the results of the most recent appraisal … should give the individual an expectation of progression up the pay range.

This is set out in section 2, paragraphs 11.2(a)(c)(d) and (e) on page 18 of the STPCD. 

Mandatory spine points were removed in September 2014

The DfE has published guidance for maintained schools on implementing their approach to pay. On page 33 it says:

It is the responsibility of the governing board to ensure that performance-based progression awards reflect individual performance.
The removal of the spine points gives greater flexibility to decide on the level of progression award appropriate to an individual’s performance.

Establishing progression criteria

We asked one of our associate education experts, Jacqueline Baker, what criteria governors should use when judging whether to increase a headteacher’s pay. She said that there is no set way of appraising headteacher performance, and governors can use whatever appraisal methods they see fit.

Assessing performance against objectives

Objectives should be pre-determined, and should relate to performance and the school development plan

Jacqueline told us that the headteacher's objectives should be pre-determined, and should relate to performance and the school development plan.

Another article from The Key has more guidance on setting objectives for the headteacher.

For each one, you should then assess whether the headteacher has:

  • Not met the objective
  • Met the objective
  • Exceeded the objective

Assessing performance against the headteacher's job description

The key areas of the headteacher job description should be used in assessing performance. These are often:

  • School vision
  • Leading teaching and learning
  • Working with others
  • Managing the organisation
  • Securing accountability
  • Strengthening community links

The Key has two further articles on headteacher job descriptions in primary and secondary schools. 

National standards of excellence for headteachers

Another article from The Key looks at the national standards of excellence for headteachers published by the DfE.

It says that the standards can be used to inform the appraisal of headteachers, but that headteachers should not be assessed against them.

Take the school's circumstances into account

The assessment of performance will depend on the circumstances of the individual school

Jacqueline emphasised that the assessment of performance will depend on the circumstances of the individual school. These will determine the priorities that the headteacher should have been addressing.

For example, a school may need to:

  • Increase pupil numbers
  • Raise the attainment of a particular cohort of pupils
  • Improve the skills of its staff through better training

Linking appraisal to progression

Governing board must be able to justify the decision

We spoke to Jacqueline and another of our associate education experts, Keith Clover, about converting the headteacher's appraisal outcomes into a pay recommendation. 

They both told us that ultimately, it is for each governing board to decide how it will translate a headteacher's performance into pay. An appraisal committee should be satisfied that its recommendations on the headteacher's pay are robust and well-documented, and that it can defend its pay decision if challenged following an appeal.

Ultimately it is for each governing board to decide how it will translate a headteacher's performance into pay

Using salary points

Jacqueline said that in her experience, despite spine points being removed from the STPCD, it can still be useful to use salary points within a headteacher's pay range. This allows potential progression to be planned in advance, and means the headteacher has a clear idea of their room for progression going forward.

Some teaching unions produce pay scales for schools. For example, you can find a leadership group pay scale, collectively endorsed by six unions and conforming to the current STPCD.

Keith and Jacqueline both advised that:

  • An appraisal period where objectives have been fully met would usually lead to an increase of 1 point on the pay scale
  • Where performance has been above and beyond what was expected of the headteacher, for example if they have dealt well with unforeseen circumstances, this could be reason to recommend an uplift of 2 points
  • Where objectives have not been met to a satisfactory standard, the appraisal committee could decide not to award any progression

Seek HR advice

Where governors are unsure how to convert performance into pay, they could seek HR advice

Jacqueline said that where governors are unsure how to convert performance into pay, they could seek HR advice.

For maintained schools, this might mean contacting the HR department of the local authority (LA). Academy governors may wish to contact their school's HR provider, and a church school may want to contact its diocese for support.

Keith agreed with this, and added that some LAs run performance management training for governors to help them with the headteacher appraisal process. You may wish to contact your LA to see whether it offers training.

Benchmarking pay

Jacqueline also suggested that governors seek to benchmark pay against other schools in the local area.

Another article from The Key looks at governors' options when it comes to benchmarking staff pay.


Jacqueline Baker is an education consultant who specialises in senior leadership recruitment. She supports schools through the recruitment process and helps them develop leadership capacity. Jacqueline also has experience as a chair of a governing board.

Keith Clover is a national leader of governance. He chairs two governing boards within a multi-academy trust and is an academy consultant for a diocese.

The Key has further guidance on headteacher appraisal, including a suggested process.

We also have an article on which governors should form the pay committee in maintained schools and academies.

This article was updated in response to a question from the chair of governors at a small primary school in London.

More from The Key

The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.