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Merit pay revamp to cost millions

Ministers are expected to announce millions of pounds extra for teachers'

performance pay today as part of a radical revamp of the merit pay system.

It is thought that the deal, thrashed out this week in talks with unions and employers, will allow a substantial majority of eligible teachers to progress to level three of the upper (performance) pay scale, worth an extra pound;1,128 a year.

But levels four and five are expected to be replaced with an "excellent teachers scheme", which only a minority of the profession could expect to reach.

The settlement, still being finalised as The TES went to press, would represent a climb-down for the Department for Education and Skills which had originally wanted to limit progression from level two to three of the upper pay scale and to fund only 33 per cent of eligible candidates.

But the tough criteria it proposed to ensure that schools met the quota were rejected in November by the School Teachers' Review Body which gave Government, unions and employers just six working weeks to come up with a new solution.

It is thought that the new scheme will instead see the existing "substantial and sustained performance and contribution to the school" criteria retained for level three. That test has already allowed more than 90 per cent of eligible teachers to qualify for the threshold and level two of the upper pay scale.

There will now be greater clarification on how heads should use the criteria.

But it is likely that this will mean a large majority of candidates continuing on to level three and a salary of pound;31,602 for those outside London.

The Government will still be anxious that numbers are kept down, but insiders in the talks are expecting a progression rate of more than 80 per cent.

With around 90,000 teachers currently on level two of the upper pay scale it means ministers could have to find more than pound;47m extra in the first year alone, compared to the 33 per cent progression rate originally suggested. The funds are expected to come from savings from the present management allowance system, which is being frozen from April.

Talks on a new management allowance system are next on the agenda. Details of the "excellent teachers scheme" were still being hammered out late this week.

The National Union of Teachers had to argue its case against any limitation on teachers' pay in separate talks with the Government after it refused to sign up to the basic concept of performance pay.

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