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New doubts over merit pay

Consultants say linking salary to reviews of teachers' performance could be damaging. William Stewart reports

ATTEMPTS to link teachers' pay more closely to performance reviews could damage their positive impact, consultants have said.

Research commissioned by the School Teachers' Review Body on performance-related pay and allowances, from Pricewaterhouse Coopers, found that both heads and teachers were positive about performance management.

However, few teachers were aware of any link to their salaries. And although most heads recognised such a link on the upper pay scale, there was very little experience of it in practice.

Three-quarters of the headteachers interviewed for the study were against any closer link.

"Teachers do not generally recognise that performance management is linked to pay - if they come to do so they may be tempted to agree softer targets to hide development needs that need to be addressed," said the consultants.

The research also found that many heads were unable to rank the performance of teachers to the extent originally envisaged. That meant the majority of teachers were likely to continue to progress through the upper pay scale.

"If the expectation of automatic progression becomes established, weaker teachers would be more likely to progress to levels of pay that are not merited," said the report.

Their findings will be used by the review body to help it respond to the Government's suggestion that performance pay be introduced to the teachers'

main scale.

The review body says the issue could be linked to the outcome of forthcoming consultations on whether the criteria for progression on the upper scale should be toughened up.

The consultants also looked at the management allowance system and found there was little consistency in the way it was used. In schools with between 501-1,000 pupils, heads of year would receive allowances ranging from level one to five.

There were many examples of management allowances being paid for administrative tasks rather than management responsibilities and 53 per cent of heads sometimes used them for recruitment and retention purposes.

PricewaterhouseCoopers suggest more guidance is needed on paying management allowances and that consideration be given to a fundamental review of the system.

They also report a wide dislike of retention and recruitment allowances among heads, who feel they are divisive.

The research found they were either used widely in schools or not at all.

Their payment was more common in London and the South-east than elsewhere.

* National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers members at Aylestone School, Hereford, are planning a second one-day strike next month because they say the school has not assessed the perfomance of 31 teachers waiting to progress to the second level of the upper pay scale.

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