Clerking Matters: Putting a price on effective clerking

Clerking matters

Advice officer Sam Tranter explains NGA’s research, conclusions and recommendations on establishing appropriate pay for clerks

No governing board can be truly effective unless it has an effective clerk. High expectations for the professional service that governing boards ought to receive from the clerk should therefore be reflected in the clerk’s pay.

However, multifaceted governing arrangements generate different clerking roles and requirements, which makes the question “how much should clerks be paid?” a very difficult one to answer. To coincide with its annual clerks’ conference held in March, NGA carried out a research project that points to a proportionate and reasonable rate of pay for those clerks completing the role as defined in the NGA model job descriptions, taking into account the current job market.

Doing so involved three distinct phases:

  • Analysing how much clerks are currently being paid
  • Establishing the market rate
  • Exploring how much clerks should be paid based on the skills, knowledge and experience needed to carry out the duties outlined in NGA’s model job descriptions.

It is important to stress that NGA did not carry out a ‘job evaluation’ in the strictest sense of the term. Our approach simply borrowed from job evaluation methods and resources for the purpose of indicative research.

Gathering the evidence

To begin with, we used evidence gathered from a sample of recent job adverts to ascertain how much employers currently offer for clerking services, as well as what they expect these individuals to do. We also explored the difference in pay between those employed to give advice and those employed exclusively to carry out administrative duties.

An adapted ‘market rate’ or benchmarking approach was then used to ascertain where the role of clerk might sit in relation to established occupational categories, using the Standard Occupation Classification hierarchy produced by the Office for National Statistics. The ‘secretarial and related occupations’ category was closely matched to NGA’s job descriptions. This ensured that the final proposed pay figure was realistic in relation to the wider UK economy.

The final stage of the project revolved around an advisory group’s discussion of NGA’s model job descriptions and the Clerking Competency Framework. These were condensed into a single matrix compatible with additional job evaluation resources, including the National Joint Council Job Evaluation Scheme and various model role profiles for school support staff published by the Local Government Association.

The benchmarked model profile and points score resulting from a factor-by-factor review of the clerk’s role were then translated into pay by matching them with published job adverts and pay data from multiple local authorities. The figures gained by doing so were averaged out in order to arrive at a minimum recommended rate of £12.85 per hour.

Drawing conclusions

Alongside the five core recommendations made as part of this report, a number of broad conclusions were drawn. Firstly, when it comes to determining pay, the role of clerk should be treated as no less than a high-level administrative post. Moreover, as in any other role, clerks with qualifications and experience should not expect to be paid at the lowest point in a salary bracket.

Evidence gathered in the course of this research also raised concerns about the contractual arrangements under which clerks are often employed, with significant variation in the number of hours clerks are expected to work. Therefore, as time spent carrying out clerking duties can also vary based on circumstances, employers should allow clerks to claim remuneration based on self-assessment of hours worked.

They should also be given an annual appraisal and pay review, with scope for pay progression in line with the employer’s own pay scale, in order to reflect the fact they are gaining additional skills and experience.

Finally, it is important that this project facilitates a grassroots movement towards courageous conversations about salary expectations.  

NGA recommendations

For clerks carrying out the duties outlined in the NGA job descriptions for academies and maintained schools, NGA has arrived at the following recommendations:

  1. Despite differences in the content of the role, a school office manager is the closest match to the clerk in terms of skills, knowledge and responsibility required. The degree of complexity to the role of clerk should be rewarded with higher pay in comparison to less senior school administrators. 
  2. Individuals who have the skills and knowledge to complete the role of clerk, but who lack direct experience and/or qualifications, should be paid no less than £12.85 per hour or £24,799 per annum (full-time equivalent). This should be uplifted in London. 
  3. When requiring an experienced clerk to fulfil the role as outlined in the NGA job description (eg with national accreditation, clerical experience and/or governance knowledge), schools should pay no less than £13.80 per hour or £26,910 per annum (full-time equivalent). This should be uplifted in London.
  4. Employers need to ensure that contractual arrangements for clerks are fair. Unless employed to carry out clerking duties on a full-time basis (i.e. across multiple schools), clerks should be paid by the hour, regardless of how their services are engaged because their hours are not fixed. Secondly, all clerks should have an annual appraisal and pay review in line with other employees.
  5. While employers should take the lead in setting appropriate rates of remuneration for clerking posts, it is imperative that clerks have discussions with their employers about what an appropriate salary looks like.

Access the Clerking Competency Framework and NGA’s model job description of the clerk

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A leader’s view: Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders speaks about his views of governance

A board’s eye view: Nina Sharma provides a snapshot of key findings from our report into governors’ views and experiences of Ofsted’s new inspection framework

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