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No more Mr Nasty?

Just in time for Christmas: a Green Paper with all the trimmings. School governors, among those to be canvassed on the biggest proposed shake-up of teachers' pay and prospects for half a century, may find it a bit like a Christmas pudding: just when you're swallowing a plum, you choke on a silver coin.

The plums are as follows: a whole-school merit award for a "significant percentage'' of achieving schools; slicing the teaching profession, with a "threshold'' beyond which experienced and committed staff can be placed on higher pay scales; properly funded training for all heads and "leadership posts'' through a national college; an induction year for all newly qualified teachers, with reduced teaching load and extra support; 20,000 more classroom assistants, with better training; using students as classroom assistants in education action zones; additional investment in technology for schools linked to teacher training; training for supply teachers; advanced skills teachers (AST) to spread good practice in their own and linked schools; training and model policies to ease the burden on governing bodies; improved and continuous training for teachers.

And the silver coins? A rigorous system of annual appraisal, including assessment to cross the "threshold'' (at point nine or seven of the current scale) and to make the AST grade - that is, performance-related pay for all; "fast-tracking'' high-flyers on a national scheme analogous to the civil service to diffuse talent through the system; broadening of the senior management team, with pay and responsibilities commensurate; more money to recruit and retain successful heads (paid up to Pounds 70,000 a year); "clearly identified'' resources so that governing bodies can fund these differentials; a boost to funding mature entrants into teaching; improved working conditions; a small-schools fund to help share facilities.

And here's what you may choke on: no time off or supply cover for compulsory teacher training; local authorities to help governing bodies appoint heads by drafting in experienced heads to advise; governing bodies to be involved in appraisal for heads and deputies with the help of an "external assessor'' - and information from the LEA - but to lose their role in deciding pay of other staff; the head's annual judgment on teacher appraisal to be checked by an external assessor who will also observe a sample of candidates; a "statutory requirement'' for governing bodies to have a performance management policy; the performance management system to be inspected by OFSTED; governors to remain "employers in practice'' and "responsible for the schools' devolved budgets''.

So, is this really Christmas pud or a new brand of fudge?

A straw poll of governors and governors' trainers suggests that most reaction will be favourable. We need to raise standards and boost teacher pay, conditions and recruitment. But there are some crucial considerations.

* Governors, as "critical friends'', are worried that, without direct input from them, some headteachers may lose their objectivity and that appraisal may veer into "Star Chamber" territory. Perhaps safeguards will be clarified in the technical document, which comes out early next year.

* Who is going to fill all these external assessor roles? Who will be a critical friend to this huge new power, responsible for moderating everything from teacher training to appraisal ? And doing so every year?

* And, finally, the Green Paper ends with accountability for "fair and transparent'' pay policies laid, surprisingly, at the door of governing bodies. Does this mean that the governors retain their staffroom post as Mr Nasty?

The consultation period ends on March 19, 1999. Copies of the Green Paper summary can be ordered on 0845 601 2518. The full text is available on the Internet at

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