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Merit pay still unpopular

The benefits of performance pay for teachers have been far outweighed by the disadvantages, a new study has concluded.

Performance Pay for Teachers, a book by a team from Exeter university published today, found that the controversial scheme was unpopular with staff and made virtually no difference to the way they taught.

Ted Wragg, who led the four-year research project, said that performance pay had also created massive bureaucracy and pushed schools into financial difficulties. It had led to more tests of pupils so that teachers had more ammunition to gain their salary increases.

On the plus side, teachers got a long overdue pay rise and had found it helpful to have the opportunity to sit down with someone and talk about their teaching.

The team surveyed 1,239 heads and 117 teachers and conducted in-depth studies of several schools between 2000-03.

"What was noticeable was how constant their view remained," said Professor Wragg.

"On most things people will change their minds over time. But people never warmed to performance pay, it left them stone cold all the way through."

The book comes on the day that the School Teachers' Review Body is expected to approve an agreement between the Government and the majority of teaching unions to replace the top two levels of the original five-level performance pay scale with an excellent teachers' scheme available only to a minority.

The compromise deal, which will allow a large majority of teachers to move to level three (pound;31,602), was made in January after the Government said it could not afford to let the virtually automatic progression up the first two levels of the scale continue to levels four and five.

It has been bitterly opposed by the National Union of Teachers which has described it as a betrayal. The STRB's report is expected to be published later this month.

Performance Pay for Teachers, by EC Wragg, GS Haynes, CM Wragg and RP Chamberlin, is published by RoutledgeFalmer on March 5

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