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Pay body puts more money in heads' gift

Frances Rafferty on plans to increase flexibility on the salary spine. The School Teachers' Review Body has recommended doubling the number of points on the classroom teachers' pay spine to increase flexibility and to allow heads to award more increases for extra responsibilities.

In a consultative document, the review body answers critics of its original 18-point spine by admitting that differences between some points on the spine were seen as too large. If more points are created, heads will be able to make smaller, more affordable awards to reward classroom excellence or teachers who take on extra responsibilities.

The review body's spine had also been criticised for the irregular steps between some of the points. The body said creating a smoother spine which also ensured that teachers' pay was safeguarded by the changes was complex. Instead, it believes that the doubling of points will itself lead to a smoother pattern.

The review body is now inviting responses to the document by September 15.

Teachers' pay is determined by the addition of points for qualifications, experience, special needs and responsibilities. Governing bodies can also award points for excellence (although very few do) and to ease recruitment and retention.

In the recommended spine, four points would be awarded for a second-class honours degree or better, two for each year of service up to a maximum of 18 points (14 for those with the four points for qualifications) and two points would replace the existing first special needs point (for teachers in special or mainstream schools who teach pupils with statements of special need).

The Department for Education and the headteacher unions had said they preferred a longer spine. But the review body rejected a suggestion that governing bodies should be able to award sums of any value between two points.

John Sutton, general secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, gave a cautious welcome to the document. "We will have to study the details but increasing the spine is a move in the right direction."

Kerry George, senior assistant secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, which had pressed for more freedom in making awards, said: "We are pleased that the review body has met our concern that experience and qualification is not devalued. But we were not pleased to read that the review body says that the cost of assimilation to the new scale must be met from the overall pay bill. And we will also want to point out that no pay structure will work unless it is funded."

Tony Meredith, assistant secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said playing with the arithmetic of the spine is not enough. "Excellence points do not work. New criteria which will allow promotion within the classroom are needed," he said.

Consultative Document on Possible Modifications to the Pay Structure for Classroom Teachers is available from the School Teachers' Review Body, 76 Oxford Street, London W1N 9FD

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