Teacher salary gap widens as private school pay rises leave state school teachers behind

Private school pay offers are seeing some teachers take home $180,000 pay packets that leave state schools struggling to compete.

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Private school pay offers are seeing some teachers take home $180,000 pay packets that leave state schools struggling to compete.

As the teacher shortage inspires tactics to attract and retain teachers, a recent analysis of pay deals struck by some independent Victorian schools in 2023 shows the gap between the top wages available in state and private schools is now almost $50,000 a year.

The teacher salary pay inequity has fuelled what one principal called a “dog eat dog” culture that is seeing schools poach rival staff from schools struggling with educator shortages.

Private schools pay more

At Melbourne’s elite Trinity Grammar School, an agreement signed in October will deliver experienced teachers $146,000 a year by 2025. With additional loadings for high duties, it means a leading teacher at Trinity Grammar’s will receive a salary of $177,000.

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It’s a salary that sits well above the $129,000 set to be paid to top teachers in the state sector by the same time. In NSW, the top public teachers can expect to receive $122,000 by 2025, with top public sector teachers in Queensland looking forward to a salary of $142,000.

The boys’ school also offers most teachers 50 per cent fee discounts on tuition. For teachers with two children attending the school from prep to year 12, the discount represents a saving of almost $500,000.

But with secondary teachers expected to do 20 hours a week face-to-face teaching, or 18 hours 40 minutes if they have other duties, one state school teacher told media that Trinity Grammar teachers “earn every cent”, due to the extra demands put on the private school’s staff, who are expected to attend evening events and weekend sport.

Christian schools seek to pay competitively

When it comes to teacher salaries offered by Christian schools, while they generally also seek to pay competitive salaries, in line with rates offered at Government and Catholic schools, they don’t tend to have the resource base of larger and more established schools or the Government or Catholic systems, says Christian Schools Australia (CSA) Director of Public Policy Mark Spencer.

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“While the current funding model increases funding to account for general increases in wages, this has not been reflective of the significant increases made by some governments for their staff,” Mr Spencer told EducationDaily. “Cost of living pressures on families also limits the ability to increase fees. While there will always be opportunities for staff to earn higher salaries elsewhere, the atmosphere and levels of support for staff within Christian schools has provided a strong force to attract staff to our schools.”

With the teacher shortage set to continue for years to come, the funding issue is one that is likely to get even more competitive. Experts predict its impact on the state school sector will be felt deeply.

Already, an Australian Education Union survey showed almost 60 per cent of teaching staff reported that shortages had caused an increase in grade-splitting or combining classes, with the union’s Victorian Branch president Meredith Peace saying teachers in the state system were “working excessive hours and grappling with unsustainable workloads” amid inadequate public funding.

Public vs Private

Victorian state schools
$129,000 by 2026

Aitken College
$124,000 plus $27,000 leadership loading

Billanook College
$126,000 for a leading teacher

Cathedral College and Cobram Anglican Grammar
$121,000 plus $11,000 leadership loading

East Preston Islamic College
$120,000 plus $7000 leadership loading

Geelong Grammar
$136,000 plus loadings

Melbourne Girls’ Grammar
$135,000 plus 2.25 per cent leadership loading

The King David School
$123,000 plus $10,000 leadership loading

Trinity Grammar
$146,000 plus $30,000 leadership loading

Source: Fair Work Commission (some wage figures include annual leave loading)

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live