Merit pay 'disappointing'

The new GTC chairman believes the promise of extra money will not improve teaching, reports Warwick Mansell

THE new chairman of England's General Teaching Council today joined the chorus of disapproval for Government moves to introduce performance-related pay throughout the profession.

In his first major interview before becoming the first teacher to fill the high-profile post, John Beattie said that money was not the principal motivation of teachers, arguing that merit pay would not have improved his own performance.

The broadside comes as Mr Beattie, an English teacher and assistant principal at Exmouth community college, Devon, spoke to The TES after being elected by the council's 64 members to the chairmanship last term.

Earlier this month, Education Secretary Estelle Morris asked the School Teachers' Review Body to consider investigating whether the current system of virtually automatic annual increments for teachers on the main pay scale should be changed.

Instead, salary progression could have a performance-related element, possibly taking into account pupil performance or behaviour.

Mr Beattie said: "I'm disappointed. I know of no evidence that says that teachers are motivated to teach better simply by being paid more. They are by and large concerned to do the best for their students in whatever circumstances they find themselves.

"While no one in their right mind would turn down extra cash, it's professional pride which makes me want to do the best by my students, nothing else."

However, Mr Beattie's comments do not necessarily herald a series of battles with ministers. He said the council would continue to concentrate on behind-the-scenes advice to Government, rather than seek to grab headlines.

The 60-year-old Scot, a former president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, accentuated the positive as The TES met him at the GTC's London office after an exhausting delayed train journey from Devon. But he admitted: "I am frustrated that we are still having, two years on, to explain the GTC to teachers."

Two months ago, his predecessor Lord Puttnam lifted the lid on the GTC's troubles during its first two years, saying that bad legislation and a lack of support from civil servants had meant most of his time was spent simply trying to persuade teachers to pay the registration fee.

The council has faced a continual battle for recognition from teachers, only half of whom agreed to pay the pound;23 fee voluntarily. But Mr Beattie said his own experiences, as a member, had been positive.

Mr Beattie, who will hold the post until next September, will earn pound;35,472 for devoting two days a week to the council while continuing to work at Exmouth for the rest of the week.

But he is unlikely to enjoy some of the benefits his predecessor received. Last year, The TES revealed how the Government was spending pound;70,000 a year on Lord Puttnam's office expenses. Mr Beattie will have to make do with space at the council's London office, at a cost, said the GTC, of well under pound;20,000 a year.

His wife, Linda, is a primary teacher and he has three grown-up children.

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