Secondary school teacher salary 1980 - 2009

This was originally published as a blog during the 2010 negotiations.  It contains useful information about teacher salary changes from 1980 to 2009.

Year to year changes to standard secondary teaching salary (TBS) 1980 to 2009


Date   Top of Scale
  % increase from
previous year
1 Aug 1980   $18,054   - -
10 Nov 1980   $20,888   15.70% National (Muldoon)
10 Nov 1981   $23,950   14.66% National (Muldoon)
10 Nov 1982   $23,950   0.00% National (Muldoon)
10 Nov 1983   $23,950   0.00% National (Muldoon)
1 Apr 1984   $24,367   1.74% National (Muldoon)
10 Nov 1985   $34,156   40.17% Labour (Lange)
10 Nov 1986   $34,156   0.00% Labour (Lange)
31 Dec 1987   $39,105   14.49% Labour (Lange)
31 Dec 1988   $39,105   0.00% Labour (Lange)
1 Aug 1989   $39,365   0.66% Labour (Palmer)
1 Aug 1990   $39,365   0.00% Labour (Palmer)
11 Jun 1991   $41,039   4.25% National (Bolger)
11 Jun 1992   $41,039   0.00% National (Bolger)
11 Jun 1993   $41,039   0.00% National (Bolger)
2 Dec 1994   $41,860   2.00% National (Bolger)
2 Dec 1995   $41,860   0.00% National (Bolger)
17 Jul 1996   $45,000   7.50% National (Bolger)
20 Jan 1997   $47,100   4.67% National (Bolger)
20 Jan 1998   $47,100   0.00% National (Shipley)
27 Jan 1999   $48,600   3.18% National (Shipley)
19 Apr 2000   $50,300   3.50% Labour (Clark)
11 Jul 2001   $51,306   2.00% Labour (Clark)
10 Jul 2002   $52,076   1.50% Labour (Clark)
9 Jul 2003   $56,393   8.29% Labour (Clark)
21 Jul 2004   $57,803   2.50% Labour (Clark)
20 Jul 2005   $59,537   3.00% Labour (Clark)
19 Jul 2006   $61,323   3.00% Labour (Clark)
30 Nov 2007   $63,776   4.00% Labour (Clark)
2 Jul 2008   $66,327   4.00% Labour (Clark)
1 Jul 2009   $68,980   4.00% Labour (Clark)


*Most teachers are paid at the top of the scale rate. This is the 'standard' rate for salary comparison and is the rate for the basic teaching job.


The top salary for a secondary teacher was 1.73 times the average wage in 1980

In 1980, under the Muldoon Government, the top of scale salary for a secondary teacher was 1.73 times higher than the average wage. In 1985 this rose to 1.93 times the average wage under the Lange Government.

The fall of the teacher salary rate to 1.32 times the average wage created a damaging teacher shortage in the mid-90s

During the 1990s, a succession of national governments (in which English was a member) cut secondary teacher numbers (1991/2 and 1994/5) and allowed the secondary teacher salary rate to fall to a low of 1.32 times the average wage, creating the damaging teacher shortage in the mid-90's.

National were forced into a temporary salary boost in 1996, lifting the TBS to 1.43 times the average wage, still significantly below the comparative rate in the Muldoon years. From then they allowed the relative rate to steadily fall again.

When Labour took control of the front benches in 1999 it was faced with ongoing and systemic teacher supply problems. A pitiful pay offer in 2001 completely misread the teacher supply situation and led to widespread industrial action when schools found themselves unable to attract or retain staff at that pay rate.  An independent panel chaired by Dame Margaret Bazely was convened to look at the evidence provided by both sides in the dispute and recommended a staged 13% increase in the rate.

The Ministerial Taskforce on Secondary Teacher Pay and Remuneration recommended an objective salary mechanism

The subsequent Ministerial Taskforce on Secondary Teacher Pay and Remuneration (2003) - also chaired by Dame Margaret - recognised the teacher supply problems continued and recommended (amongst other things in a 10 year plan to improve the attractiveness of teaching as a profession) that an objective salary mechanism should be applied to prevent teacher salaries from again falling behind and limiting the need to take industrial action to keep salaries current. A steady increase in rates to maintain relativity with other wage and salaries was seen as preferable to the boom-bust sequence of low or no increases leading to critical teacher shortages, responded to too late by a one-off boost to salaries and then back to a phase of negligence.

By 2004 stage salaries were only 1.47 times the average wage, significantly below the relative wage rate that the Bolger government inherited.

8.8% increase required in the current top pay rate to restore its value relative to the pay teachers were receiving in 1985.

Since 2003 salaries have been edging back towards levels needed to recruit and retain adequate numbers of qualified secondary teachers. The TBS is about 1.57 times the average wage with the 2009 increase. It would require an increase of 10% immediately to bring the normal teacher salary back to the relative level Muldoon left it at.

If we put relative wage rates to one side and look at the value of the top of the normal teacher salary over time, the inflation rate from December 1985 to December 2009 is 121%, while the normal pay rate increased by 102%. It would have required an 8.8% increase in the current top of scale rate in December 2009 just to restore its value relative to the pay teachers were receiving in 1985.