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Q I have been receiving a retention payment of pound;3,750, which is due to expire in July 2007. Our school has a fairly high turnover of teaching staff. I wonder if this problem would qualify as exceptional circumstances, making it possible to have this payment renewed for a further year to 18 months? I think the governors would be happy to renew the award if it was legally possible.

A Under the provisions of the 2006 School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document, existing teachers may only receive the incentive for three years, except in "exceptional circumstances", when it may be renewed. As to what constitutes "exceptional circumstances", the document is silent. I don't think turnover alone would be enough, unless it was so high as to be destabilising. The problem is to know when that point occurs and to justify it in advance. More likely, the governors would be advised to monitor the turnover at the school on a regular basis and compare it with those of neighbouring schools of a similar type. If it was substantially higher, that would justify the continuation of the retention incentive. Recruitment should be less of a problem in the primary sector, even if turnover can be.

If the governors decide to renew the incentive payment, they should ensure their reasons for doing so are recorded in case the auditors challenge them at some future date. The fact that nobody is monitoring these payments at present doesn't mean they won't at some point in the future

John Howson is a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University. To ask him a question, email him at

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