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Market creates its own fast track;Hot Data

One of the Government's new ideas is "fast tracking". The assumption seems to be that although the starting salary for teachers is acceptable, progression is too slow for high-flyers, so they dismiss the idea of teaching as a career.

Leaving aside all the problems about who should do the selection and how such a scheme would operate, it is worth looking at what happens currently.

Normally a new graduate can't enter teaching until the age of 22, and they would then join on point 2 of the salary scale. By the time they were 25, they would be on point 5, assuming only points for experience. They would reach their maximum for experience of 9 points by the age of 29. Clearly, as the table shows, some teachers are already doing better than that. In 1997, by the age of 25, about 30 primary teachers - all women - were already apparently earning more than pound;19,000 or over 9.5 on the salary scale.

Among the 25 to 29-year-olds there were even more earning higher salaries than might be expected. In the primary sector, 40 men and 350 women were on salaries above pound;23,000 and 20 high-flying women on more than pound;27,000. A similar picture emerges for secondary teachers, where more responsibility points are generally available - 220 men and 390 women were earning between pound;23,000 and pound;26,999 and 30 men and 40 women were already earning over pound;27,000.

These figures suggest that rapid promotion is already possible. Indeed the total number of those under 30 earning more than expected might not be far short of the 5 per cent suggested as the limit for fast-tracking in the new Green Paper.

The difference is that the Government envisages "deploying" these teachers, whereas at present it is the market that helps decide the salary level. It would be a disaster, if by intervening in the market, the Government made it more difficult for some schools to attract staff.

The idea of fast tracking works well in organisations where career progression is controlled from the centre; in teaching it could produce yet more bureaucracy and another bidding exercise along the lines of that for superteachers.

How the mobility envisaged in the Green Paper would work is also open to question. Would such teachers be on loan to a school for a year from either an agency or the Department for Education and Employment Flying Squad?

John Howson

John Howson is a fellow of Oxford Brookes University and runs an education research company. E-mail: int.edu@lineone.net

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