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Heads' union debates call for perfomance pay boycott

The National Association of Head Teachers will meet next week to decide whether to back calls from members for a national boycott of performance pay.

Heads in at least four local authorities - Cheshire, Cumbria, Gloucestershire and Lincolnshire - are calling for a boycott that would seriously embarrass the Government and delay salary rises for up to 200,000 teachers.

They are angry that the Government has refused to provide extra money to fund higher pay for teachers who have crossed the performance threshold, despite a recommendation from the School Teachers' Review Body. Ministers insist that schools should find extra cash from their budgets.

"The anger out there is very real. Heads and deputies are united in their belief that the Government is taking decisions which put at risk the whole performance management system except the threshold itself," said David Hart, NAHT general secretary. "I would be very surprised if our national council did not decide that some action needs to be taken."

The review body said in its annual report, published last week, that schools do not have enough spare cash to reward the "substantial majority" of the 200,000 teachers who have crossed the performance threshold.

"If progression is constrained on grounds of lack of funding, the morale of the profession will be seriously impaired, with consequent implications for teacher recruitment and retention," the review body warned.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said that his union was also considering what action to take. He warned that, unless more money was provided, only around half of those who should gain extra points on the upper pay spine would get them.

The two largest classroom unions also want ministers to find more cash. But Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said his union would oppose a boycott which would hurt teachers.

The NASUWT and the National Union of Teachers have also expressed disappointment that the Government has refused to review the standards that teachers must meet to cross the threshold.

The unions, backed by the National Assembly for Wales, want pupil progress to be removed from the measures used to assess teachers' performance.

But ministers have rejected their calls and instead promised fresh guidance on the standards required and in particular pupil progress. The new guidance will make clear that teachers can use their experience from the independent sector or overseas when filling in their application as long as it is relevant to state schools in England and Wales.

Meanwhile, Scottish local authorities have warned that the McCrone deal on pay and conditions could collapse because the executive has not provided enough funds for support staff, professional development and cover. The deal has been praised by English unions who would like to see measures such as guaranteed non-contact time adopted south of the border.

Employers in England said that they have been left with a pound;380m bill as a result of the teachers' pay award and that schools may have to make cuts.

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