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Kelly's threat to national rates

The Education Secretary wants a review of the case for a regional salary system, reports William Stewart

Localised teacher pay has been put back on the agenda by the Government, despite fierce opposition from its partner unions.

In her latest remit letter to the School Teachers' Review Body, Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, asks it to consider whether there is scope for "more locally determined pay".

It is the second such request from ministers in less than three years. The first, made to the review body in August 2002, was strongly opposed by all teaching unions.

Since then, the majority have gone on to form a close working partnership with the Government on teacher pay and conditions through the rewards and incentives group (RIG).

But that has not prevented Ms Kelly from revisiting the hugely divisive issue.

John Dunford, the Secondary Heads Association general secretary, condemned regional pay as a "very blunt instrument".

Mary Bousted, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary, said her union would "employ all the arguments at our disposal" to demonstrate it was not the answer for recruiting teachers.

The remit letter asks the review body to consider an overall teachers' pay deal settlement to cover September 2006-August 2008. The current deal, agreed in 2003, will give teachers a 2.5 per cent rise this month, topped up to 3.25 per cent in September.

Schools may find it difficult to afford any major pay rises as senior government sources have warned that in future they may face much smaller budget funding increases. The remit letter asks the review body to consider the extent to which participation in job training (CPD), including coaching and mentoring colleagues, should affect teacher pay rises.

The Government also wants to know whether other factors such as experience in challenging schools should be taken into account.

In March 2004, the review body recommended a localised pay system that allowed all schools that could demonstrate recruitment difficulties to pay teachers higher rates, currently only available in London.

But in September RIG put the issue on the back burner, arguing for stability. Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said he was prepared to talk about linking pay to CPD. But he said: "The strength of feeling of opposition to local pay within the education system has been made very clear to it (the Government) indeed. I think they don't know when to give up."

Andy Innett, from the employers organisation, said local pay could complicate an already flexible system. But Chris Keates, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "It doesn't worry us because we know it is not a real danger." It was in the letter because the review body had asked the Government to keep it under review, she said.

The review body has been asked to re-examine the case for extra pay for advanced skills maths and science teachers which it rejected in February.

Ms Kelly also wants it to examine whether teachers' duties should be revised to reflect extended schools, workforce reform and the focus on teaching and learning and whether there are particular issues to address regarding part-time teacher pay and conditions.

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