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Controversial staff bonus award may be abolished

SCHOOL achievement awards, which distributed cash between staff in schools deemed to have performed well, could be abolished.

Government officials have admitted the scheme, which became controversial because of its impact on winners and losers, is under review.

Last year, around pound;60 million was distributed to 7,100 schools. Individuals received pay bonuses of around pound;250, after the deduction of tax, national insurance and administration charges levied by council payroll services.

In 2001, the scheme's first year, the Department for Education and Skills had to admit it had missed out 300 winners and distributed awards to 300 to other schools by mistake. Teachers were allowed to keep the cash but did not receive certificates and official recognition.

Meanwhile, other schools commended in the chief inspector's annual report or which had earned the DfES's beacon status missed out.

Heads and governors, who complained the system was an unduly complex way of distributing relatively small awards, have mixed feelings about its possible demise.

Linda Gibson, head of St Luke's primary in Bradford, which won an award in 2001, said she did not approve of the scheme because results could improve due to changes in pupil intake - rather than anything staff had done.

She would rather the money was spent on providing part-time teachers in primary schools, to give colleagues non-contact time.

David Watchorn, head of Abraham Moss school, Manchester, which has collected achievement awards in the past two years, said he felt the basis for making allocations - based on pupil performance data - had always been "a little shaky".

But he added: "Staff did appreciate it immensely, they felt it was recognition (of their work). Maybe the Government needs to find a fair way of recognising their efforts."

This year's awards, due to be announced in April, could be the last. A DfES spokesman said: "It is only right that we review the scheme. Once evaluation is completed we will have a clearer understanding of its impact on schools."

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