Having national teachers’ salaries affects school performance and has a negative impact on pupil learning, according to a study by the University of Bristol which found that centralised pay setting led to an average loss of one GCSE exam grade per pupil.

Using data from around 200,000 teachers in 3,000 state secondary schools that educate three million children, the study criticised the School Teacher Review Body (STRB), a central review body that publishes guidelines on pay scales for teachers.

The recommended pay scales have limited regional variation, the study fund, which meant that teachers’ pay differentials across regions did not fully reflect the regional differentials in private sector wages. For example, the average difference in teacher wage between the North East of England and inner London is approximately nine per cent, while the equivalent private sector wage difference is larger than 30 per cent.

The effect of this is that in areas where private sector wages are high centralised pay setting acts as a pay ceiling for teachers. This can cause difficulties in recruitment and retention, especially of higher-quality workers, the study concluded.

And it went further: looking at data on school performance and local wages, the researchers found a loss of around one GCSE point per pupil – equivalent to dropping one GCSE grade in one subject – in response to a 10 per cent increase in the average wage paid in the region in the private sector.

One of the study’s authors Professor Carol Propper, said: “The nature of teaching in England means a large proportion of the work is discretionary (time spent lesson planning, engagement in after-school programmes, time invested in particular children) so there is scope for reductions in effort in response to lower relative wages. Our findings present strong evidence that the centralised wage setting of teachers’ pay has a negative impact on pupils’ learning.

“Furthermore, the cost-benefit of removing centralised pay regulations means that the long-term gains from the removal of regulation could be very large.”