Morris tries to bind unions to 3-year deal

TEACHERS are to be offered a three-year pay deal next year as Estelle Morris attempts to become the first Education Secretary in more than 30 years to force through a long-term salary and conditions agreement with unions.

All teachers will know how their pay will increase up to 2006 as the Government attempts to break the cycle of annual pay settlements and give schools the power to plan their salary bills years in advance.

Union leaders said Ms Morris's move in a letter to the School Teachers'

Review Body was "attempting to remove by imposition" the right to annual pay negotiations, and warned teachers could lose out.

Ms Morris is to go into battle once more calling for tougher performance pay. Her letter suggests she wants fewer teachers to progress towards the top of the classroom pay spine (pound;32,000).

Headteachers will be given the freedom to boost the pay of teachers deemed to be doing a good job. The review body has been asked to make the pay structure more flexible and to look at paying good heads in challenging schools more to recruit and retain them. However, in an interview with The TES, Bill Cockburn, the new STRB chairman, says there is enough flexibility, but heads are not using it. Ministers want him to look at how to ensure heads use the freedom.

The review body will also look at how pay could reshape the profession, by recommending salary rates for "superheads" who take over failing schools or become chief executives of federations of schools.

The letter urges the STRB to look at extra pay for teachers in London and in shortage subjects.

Ministers will not put figures to the three-year pay plan until the spring, following next term's announcement of measures to cut teachers' workloads. The structure is modelled on last year's McCrone agreement in Scotland, but the 23 per cent rise over three years offered there is not on the cards. Pay would need to rise by 9 per cent by 2006 to keep pace with Chancellor Gordon Brown's inflation predictions.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"The Education Secretary cannot simply bang down a three-year moratorium on pay, however good the deal is. She has to sit down and negotiate with the unions."

Chris Keates, National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers deputy general secretary, said: "Will teachers stay long enough to enjoy a three-year deal?"

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, warned: "We have got to give a good majority of the teaching profession a real expectation they will get to pound;32,000 for being classroom teachers."

The letter comes as new figures revealed the difficulty secondary teacher-training courses are still having filling places in shortage subjects for September. As The TES went to press, only 13 per cent of postgraduate maths places had been filled. In modern foreign languages, the figure was 20 per cent, and in science, 44 per cent.

The Department for Education and Skills denied reports that the three-year deal was a government attempt to avoid industrial action in the run-up to a likely general election in 2006.

Analysis and interview, 6

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