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DfE's "very poor practice" rushing through performance pay "devalued the consultation process"

After another year of constant change in Michael Gove’s radical overhaul of the education system, it seems an eternity since the introduction of performance-related pay was first announced almost a year ago.

While the end of automatic incremental pay rises for teachers on the Main Pay Scale, combined with an increasing focus on performance, generated fury among most of the classroom unions, the process by which this radical change was implemented was also a cause of serious consternation in the education establishment.

After the proposals were first announced following the recommendation by the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), the public consultation lasted just four weeks – which included the Christmas break.

After several unions expressed concerns about the timing and length of the consultation, the Department for Education has now received an official telling off from the House of Lords’ secondary legislation scrutiny committee.

Pleading its innocence, the DfE told the committee that the consultation overlapping with a holiday period was “unavoidable”. It insisted that complaints by the NUT, NASUWT, ATL, UCAC and Voice unions, as well as the Local Government Employers, about the length of the consultation were “unjustifiable”, as this had been standard practice for previous STRB reports.

As far as the peeved peers on the committee were concerned, this excuse simply didn’t wash. “We regard this as very poor practice,” their response seethed. This, the report added, was “not ameliorated by the fact that [this practice] has been followed over many years.

“There can be no doubt that the changes… are of marked significance for the teaching profession in England. Decisions on such important changes are of course for the government to take.

“However, if the government choose to consult interested parties before reaching such decisions, they should in our view ensure that the arrangements for consultation allow respondents adequate time to formulate and submit their responses. Failure to do so can only devalue the consultation process.”

In response to the scathing report, a DfE spokeswoman told TES: “All consultations related to the STRB have been four weeks long, despite the fact that Cabinet Office guidance suggests a two week minimum. On this occasion it was imperative to run the consultation at that time to give schools a term’s notice of the proposed changes.”

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