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Frozen pay is thawed

PERFORMANCE-RELATED pay for teachers came a step nearer this week, with a report from the School Teachers'Review Body giving it the go-ahead. The body has ratified the eight standards - one of which is pupil progress - that teachers must meet in order to get their pound;2,000 threshold pay rise. This has been held back since David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, was instructed after a judicial review to consult more thoroughly before issuing the statutory orders which will change teachers' contracts of employment.

The review body's report also recommends that teachers who fail the threshold assessment should have the right to appeal - a substantial concession. And teachers will not now be expected to judge their colleagues unless they already have some management responsibility. The Government is expected to agree to all the report's recommendations.

This means that the National Union of Teachers - bitterly criticised by its fellow unions back in July for blocking the extra money and throwing the whole process into chaos - now feels that its stand has been vindicated.

The revised orders still have to be laid bfore Parliament next month, but most of the 200,000 or so staff who are in line for the pound;2,000 rise should have received their money (backdated to September) by Easter.

As this frustrating episode - highly embarrassing for David Blunkett - draws to a close, it can be seen to have played its part in getting performance-related pay accepted by the profession. Having to wait for the money has concentrated minds on the payments rather than the process. Hearing Mr Justice Jackson condemn ministers' "haste and confusion" in a cogent and forceful manner soothed many a troubled breast. The new appeal system - although the Secondary Heads' Association does not like it - will make the procedure more acceptable to many.

So honour has been partially satisfied - and the Government has had the sense to give in gracefully. It will be interesting to see if the new consultation period results in many responses. Civil servants, unions and local authorities will meet to hammer out the detail. But it could be that classroom teachers are now too battle-weary to muster much more interest, and will simply wait for the cash.

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