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Bitesize claim is hard to swallow

IT'S a devastating blow for performance-related pay. Research at a Tyneside secondary school suggests good teachers make no difference to results - but watching late-night TV does.

To be precise, watching the BBC's wee-small-hours GCSE Bitesize Revision programme does. Students who used the package which includes books and websites for four months before their exams saw their results improve on average by a grade.

That impressive result was matched by only two of the 50 human teachers at Monkseaton Language College in Whitley Bay. Headteacher Paul Kelley - who reports his findings in today's TES - admits the rest of his staff, himself included, made no difference.

The school used sophisticated software to track pupils' performance for four years, cross-checking their results against a database containing those of 40,000 GCSE and A-level students compiled by Durham University's centre for educational management.

Dr Kelley's findings will provide joyful ammunition to opponents of the appraisal system controversially proposed by the Government in its recent Green Paper. If teaching has no impact on results, how can ministers fairly link pay to pupils' performance?

The BBC has jumped gleefully on the findings as proof that TV isn't "dumbing down". Teachers, naturally, find it harder to swallow - Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "I'm always suspicious of research that doesn't accord with common sense, and this certainly doesn't."

A note of caution is offered by Durham University itself. Professor Carol Fitz-Gibbon says students who spend more time on computers might be those who would do better anyway.

But, writing in The TES, she adds: "Dr Kelley's observations raise questions about performance-related pay, an initiative introduced without evidence for its effectiveness."

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