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Another twist in awards farce

My school was recently given a school achievement award, accompanied by a letter from school standards minister Estelle Morris to offer her congratulations to the school on its efforts.

Somewhat chuffed by this unexpected but welcome government recognition of our work, I quickly got on with the job of sharing the award among all the staff, as recommended by the accompanying circular. My staff were very pleased to be told they were getting this bonus, and that we were not one of the schools that got an award by mistake.

However, on Wednesday of last week, the school's payroll provider rang to tell us us that there would be a 1 per cent levy on the award, to meet the administrative costs of paying it. I rang the Department for Education and Employment and was referred to paragraph 16 of the circular, which says payroll providers may make a charge.

I invite all schools, especially those with acievement awards, to savour the cleverness of this.

At a time of crisis in teacher recruitment and morale, the Government comes up with the neat idea of giving your staff a bonus. Great PR! However, the award turns out not only to be taxable but staff have to pay for the privilege of receiving it! This seems to me to set a dangerous precedent. If teachers have to pay the administrative costs incurred in receiving this small award for good performance, what is to stop payroll providers charging them for the administrative costs involved in distributing their threshold performance payments?

I have been broadly supportive of this government's approach to education because I thought the last government was pretty inept. However, with the farce of the school achievement award, it seems to be in a league of its own.

Richard Hall Headteacher, Branston junior school 2 North Parade, Lincoln

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