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Pay rises won't come easy

Graeme Paton on moves to rewrite standards staff must meet to win higher salaries

Not all teachers are destined to sit in the head's chair. So the Government has sought to find ways to reward those at the top of their profession that allow them to stay in the classroom.

One of the first moves was to create the advanced skills teacher grade in 1998, shortly after Labour came to power.

It was hoped that a headline salary of more than pound;40,000 (ASTs can now earn pound;49,872) would lure more graduates into the profession while offering excellent staff a way of progressing their careers without having to enter senior management.

ASTs are now expected to spend time during the week on outreach work, mostly in other schools, fighting the evils of sloppy practice and spreading good advice and exemplary classroom material.

It is not the only performance-related teaching standard imposed under this Government. In 2000 it decided to introduce a pay "threshold", in effect a pound;2,000 reward for experienced teachers who reach a certain level of classroom performance.

Teachers with at least six years' experience undergo assessment by heads before they can cross the threshold and move to the upper pay spine. To pass they must have achieved a series of national standards, including tests of knowledge and understanding, teaching ability, pupil progress and wider professional effectiveness.

In September 2006 the Government will also introduce the excellent teacher scheme, a so-called "gold standard" for classroom teachers. Although a job description has yet to be written, it is thought excellent teachers will have to act as mentors for others.

The standards, inevitably, have brought criticism from unions, concerned that they may be too hard to achieve or open to dubious and subjective assessment criteria. Indeed, when the threshold was introduced, a successful legal challenge was mounted by the National Union of Teachers amid claims the Government had not consulted properly over how performance was to be judged.

Concerns still exist over the standards required to win the performance-related pay rise; some academics mock the threshold as a "fudge" because 95 per cent of those who apply are successful.

Now the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), the quango formed earlier this month from the Teacher Training Agency, has been charged with re-writing the threshold standards - in essence bringing new "coherence" and career progression to a framework which has been allowed to develop in a piecemeal way over the past eight years.

The review is also intended to introduce new "high expectations" for in-service training. This follows concerns that much professional development is little more than "time off" for teachers and is failing to address their needs.

In coming months, the agency will ask teachers, unions and school staff to contribute to the review, which will rewrite standards needed to cross the threshold, win advanced skilled teacher status and join the excellent teacher scheme. At the same time, it will reassess what trainees must do to gain qualified teacher status (QTS) and pass the induction year, now compulsory for all new state-school teachers.

A consultation document, drawn up to provoke debate, says that, if possible, demands for QTS will be maintained, although it hints that some standards should be moved so they are achieved later in teachers' careers.

It remains to be seen if the review will drastically alter future careers.


To contribute to the review visit

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