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An end to willy-nilly increments

Bring on the sticks and carrots. A tightening of the link between pay and performance for teachers on the main scale is proposed in this week's review body report, though how far it will result in different practices in most schools remains to be seen.

Annual increments are paid more or less automatically at present. Only if a teacher actually triggers the incompetency procedures is a school likely to consider withholding an annual rise. And in spite of inspection evidence suggesting the teaching of around one in five is excellent or very good, double increments for excellence are almost never given, although the rules allow them.

The review body knows that schools and teachers expect steady advance up the main scale whether a teacher is minimally satisfactory or outstandingly good. It is ingrained in the culture - and the attraction - of the profession.

Teachers, heads, governors and employers have all warned against tougher performance criteria for main scale rises. But the review body is sticking to its belief "that a rigorous performance management system, robustly applied by school leaders, should be the hub of all progression". The expectation of smooth progress up the scale "needs to be linked explicitly to the realisation that progress depends upon performance", it says.

When, at an annual performance review, a teacher is judged to be making insufficient progress to merit an increment, the rise should be deferred, the review body recommends. If an improvement plan then fails to produce the necessary progress within six months, the increment will be withheld.

If teaching improves sufficiently, it will be paid in full and backdated.

Performance judged outstanding for two years will merit a double increment.

This will play well in the Treasury and therefore in the Department for Education. But the likelihood is that most heads will continue to assess performance as satisfactory unless a teacher is patently failing. The Government and the review body can do little more than urge them to do otherwise. Many will be reluctant to hand out double increments because of the cost, though teachers rated excellent by the Office for Standards in Education may have the basis for a grievance if this is not recognised in future.

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