London has long been the number one choice for new graduates from any discipline, and teachers are no exception.
Many believe London is the world’s greatest city to live and work for a variety of reasons. You only have to spend an hour in any café, bar or restaurant across London to hear a smorgasbord of English accents and languages.
London truly is a global city on the world’s stage.
And as the UK is also Europe’s second-largest economy, many graduates believe it is a land of opportunity.
In fact, over a quarter of graduates move to London after university to experience the dynamism of this great city.
And as one of London’s most passionate residents, Samuel Johnson, famously said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford”.
I think he had a point because London has something for everyone and thankfully the city never sits still. London truly is forever bustling and you’ll certainly never get bored.
If you are a foodie, London is your dream city as you can find any international cuisine and any dish you could ever want.
There are also so many cool bars and cafes where you can play mini golf, pet a cat or simply beat your best friends at monopoly while munching on carrot cake and quaffing lashings of cappuccino. The possibilities are endless.
If you’re a sports fan, you are spoilt for choice almost every weekend. The diverse array of sports on offer, range from football to tennis, from cricket to rowing, rugby to basketball, and most recently even American Football is on offer.
Is it any wonder so many newly qualified teachers can’t wait to start teaching in London?
In many ways, London is the ideal place to kick start your teaching career, and within London, we recommend Lambeth!.
Of course, teaching in London provides a rewarding and unique experience for many fresh graduates, but all this fun does come at a price.
As I’m sure you’ll be aware, any of the world’s greatest cities like Hong Kong, Beijing, New York and Tokyo are never going to be cheap to live, and neither is London.
A recent study by the Trust for London estimated that the cost of living and working in London is about 20% higher than the rest of the United Kingdom.
And to alleviate some of that financial burden, the London weighting system was introduced.
Background on the London weighting system
The background of the London weighting system can be traced back to the 1974 report of the Pay Board. The members recommended an extra payment to compensate for the extra living costs in London.
This was based on a flat rate for inner London which was classed as up to four miles from Charing Cross. And a flat rate for the other London boroughs. The process was then expanded to the counties bordering London towards the end of the 1980s. This was in part due to competition for staff and led to “Roseland” allowances covering the counties in south east England, namely Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey.
However, the public sector often did not have the resources to follow these changes. Therefore, many companies ended up targeting specific groups of workers, or locations, with special pay supplements. However, labour shortages and the high cost of living in London, with its knock-on recruitment and retention problems, subsequently forced many companies to adopt some form of the London allowance.
Why is London weighting needed?
It basically comes down to one word, rent.
Renting somewhere in London is expensive, make no mistake about it.
In fact, the average rental price in Greater London is £1,560pcm. You can compare this with the average rental price for the rest of the United Kingdom currently at £749pcm.
This is why the London weighting system is so vital.
Of course, with such high rents, buying a home would be equally as tough.
Currently, the average house price in London is £484,584 compared with a national average of £226,906.
However, these high prices do not seem to deter new graduate teachers from choosing London as their first choice destination (and we look at how to make living in Lambeth more affordable here)
But of course, teachers just like anyone else getting on the employment ladder in the capital welcomes the London salary weighting system.
So let’s look at it in more detail.
What exactly is the London salary weighting system?
If you decide to teach in a maintained school in the United Kingdom, you will be paid accordingly to the nationally agreed pay scale.
This pay scale was outlined in the 2019 School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).
If you teach in an academy, free school or independent school, your pay will be set according to your school’s pay policy.
Your salary as a qualified classroom teacher working in a maintained school in England is set within the Main Pay Range (MPR) or the Upper Pay Range (UPR).
There are different rates depending on where you live in London.
Below is a table showing some approximate annual salaries if you decide to teach in a maintained school.
England (excluding London areas)
London Fringe area
Outer London area
Inner London area
Main Pay Range (MPR)
Upper Pay Range (UPR)
Does the London weighting system go far enough?
The Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University has recently looked deeply into whether the London weighting system goes far enough. In research funded by the charity Trust for London, they showed that the London Weighting needs to be about £7,700 per year in Inner London and over £6,200 in Outer London to cover the additional minimum cost of living in the capital.
Currently, the average London Weighting is below £4,000 so it’s clear much more needs to be done.
Will the government build teachers' housing on school sites?
The government understands the need to look into how the London Weighting system reflects in housing for teachers. And one idea that has been proposed is building housing for school staff on low and middle income salaries at a subsidised cost. The Mayor of London is making headway with an approach to dealing with this issue with the ‘Homes for Londoners’ initiative.
In other plans, aconstruction company has been commissioned to look into the possibility of using school land to build housing units specifically for teachers and staff. This could be a great idea for teachers to live close to the schools they work in. This would also reduce travel costs for these teachers, and it would also improve recruitment and retention costs in the long-term.
In addition, newly graduate teachers would be more likely to stay in the profession if some of their financial burden is relieved. There would also be significant savings in recruiting, retaining and other factors such as reduced long-term sick pay costs.
Benefits of living and teaching in Lambeth
Lambeth is considered a fairly youthful borough of London. The dynamic lifestyle is dominated by the fast pace of the younger generation as well as the large population of working professionals, who come here seeking excellent transport links, a cosmopolitan social scene, and relatively affordable housing.
Lambeth borough is working hard to make the area a place people want to live and work.
The borough is working on improving all the neighbourhoods and town centres so they feel safe and welcoming. They also understand the need to provide high-quality leisure and cultural facilities, as well as maintaining Lambeth’s award-winning parks. Continual investment in a network of green spaces supports the residents physical activities and wellbeing.
The borough is also working hard to reduce the environmental impact by cutting carbon emissions, significantly reducing waste, and encouraging reuse by residents and businesses.
In addition, Lambeth borough is trying to improve the quality of housing in the area for all residents.
What matters to you in this context as a teacher coming to live and work in Lambeth is that it qualifies for the full Inner London Weighting!
Final thoughts on London salary weighting system?
The high cost of rent in London has been a big issue for a long time, and it’s clear that there’s no easy solution. The London salary weighting system does not level the playing field.
Sure it helps, but a lot more needs to be done to prevent professionals in every sector, not just teachers, from moving out of the city.
In mid-2018, the National Education Union conducted a survey of its members in London to get their views on salaries, housing and staff turnover.
Responses were collected from almost 1,400 teachers from across the full range of classroom teachers. And these responses clearly reinforced the warning made by the School Teachers’ Review Body in its 2017 report that failing to act on teachers’ pay - and the corresponding threats to teacher recruitment and retention - “presents a substantial risk to the functioning of an effective education system".
It’s quite clear that all paid workers in London need allowances, not just teachers. It’s not a good idea to favour one group of workers over another as this would create division and inequality. In addition, a single London allowance is preferable to the inner/outer London allowances.
This is because costs these days, and particularly for housing, are no longer significantly different between inner and outer London like they were 10 or 20 years ago.
If you would like more information on how much you can earn as an NQT, please check out this article called: Your NQT Salary – What to Expect.