ISM column: results of the 2023 annual fees survey

Dr Jodie Underhill
Thursday, June 1, 2023

Dr Jodie Underhill of the ISM unpacks the survey findings and shares what these mean for teachers.

 The results are in
The results are in

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One of the most valued resources the Independent Society of Musicians (ISM) produces is the results of our annual fees survey.

Hundreds of music educators, including many Music Teacher readers, completed the survey which allows us to produce a valuable benchmarking tool which can assist music teachers when considering their fees. We’re grateful to the more than 650 private, self-employed and employed instrumental teachers who took part this year.

General trend

This year’s survey was the first since COVID-19 restrictions were completely lifted, but the results indicate that remote teaching is still a popular option, with nearly half of all responding private teachers undertaking both online and face-to-face teaching. This suggests that online teaching is now quite well established in the industry, and it is great to see private face-to-face teaching recovering to pre-pandemic levels, demonstrating the continued value and resilience of music teachers.

There are also new challenges being faced as a result of the cost-of-living crisis. The survey responses showed that many teachers are experiencing a drop-off in demand even where this has not yet resulted in a significant reduction in pupil numbers. Teachers reported not increasing their hourly rates for fear of losing pupils or contracts, despite rising expenses such as transport or heating premises.


The median rate for private teaching has increased by £1 up to £36 per hour. Our survey also found that those charging the most increased their fees the most (a 10% increase on average). Of the respondents, 46% had increased their rates this year with 41% expecting to increase their fees in the coming year. The data also shows regional discrepancies when it comes to private teaching fees, with the average hourly rate in Inner London almost £15 higher than Yorkshire and more than £18 higher than Northern Ireland.

For those instrumental teachers working part-time in schools, there are differences in the hourly rates depending on the type of school or establishment that they are working for. The median hourly fee for those employed in an independent school is £35.99, compared to £31 in state-funded schools and £28 in music services, hubs or music schools. Comparatively, for the self-employed, the median is £42 per hour for those teaching in independent schools, £34 in state-funded schools and £30 in music services, hubs or music schools.

Your rights

The ISM is concerned about the rights of music teachers, and our 2022 report The Case for Change highlighted a precarious workforce without sufficient protection. It’s of some concern that the current survey found 59% of state-school employees were on zero hours contract, compared to 69% in specialist music establishments and up to 74% of those working at independent schools. The ISM recommends that zero-hours contracts should not be used if there is a regular pattern of work, a regular number of hours on offer or if an individual wants an employment contract that guarantees a minimum number of hours. The use of the contracts should be jointly agreed with staff and reviewed at least annually.

Holiday pay

It was also concerning to find that almost 30% of respondents were still unsure of how their holiday pay was calculated, with 43% of respondents reporting that holiday pay was pro-rated and just 13% reporting that their employers had implemented the changes to holiday pay which came about as a result of the Harpur Trust v Brazel ruling from 2022. This landmark Supreme Court case determined that the holiday pay for term-time-only workers (such as visiting music teachers) should be calculated straightforwardly, by simply taking a normal week’s pay and multiplying it by 5.6 to produce 5.6 weeks of paid holiday instead of applying a ‘pro rata’ formula based on 12.07% of basic hourly rate.

Mutual support

These results are just a snapshot of everything that the survey covered. The full results of the survey will soon be published online and will also be available in leaflet form. We hope that this is a valuable resource for you in your teaching business. Thank you once again to everyone who took the time to complete the survey and share their experiences with us. The ISM has an in-house legal team that supports members with employment issues all year round.

For more on the fees survey and to find out about ISM’s resources, visit