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Quest for system to reward heads

Heads and deputies who want merit pay in future will have to agree performance targets with their governing bodies to prevent abuse of the present discretionary pay system.

The Education Secretary has accepted the review body's recommendation that, when deciding the pay of heads and deputies, governors must consider whether they have shown "outstanding overall performance. . . in the light of criteria agreed with [the governing body]". This replaces the present requirement to consider "sustained overall performance. . . which appreciably exceeds that normally expected. . ."

The new performance reviews will be deferred until September 1997 to allow governors, heads and deputies to agree targets covering the school year 199697.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the new criteria could only be introduced with the agreement of heads and deputies. The union, which has long been opposed to the enforced introduction of merit pay, is to issue detailed guidance to its members after further talks with civil servants and governors. "The important thing is there will have to be school by school agreement," he said.

Currently, very few pay classroom teachers receive excellence points, but a quarter of heads and deputies did last year and almost a third the year before. Governor organisations are sceptical that indicators can be devised that will measure the head's performance alone.

If a school does well in the exam league tables or it has a favourable inspection or its finances are good order, how much is this due to the head or the whole staff, asked Walter Ulrich, spokesman for the National Association of Governors and Managers.

"We agree very much with the review body's thought that if the pay of the head and deputy is going to increase it should be on the basis of a defensible judgment," he said.

Under the present arrangements it appears to be the negotiating abilities of the head or embarrassment on the part of governors, particularly in small primary schools, that determines pay, while in other schools heads are loath to ask for extra money because they know the school budget will suffer.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has forwarded to the Nolan Committee its concern about the conduct of some heads who have negotiated large rises.

The review body said it acknowledged a lack of consistency in approach: "Where increases have been given they have, for example, sometimes been on the basis of an almost automatic incremental progression; in other instances governors appear to have taken the view that no increases should be awarded regardless of the circumstances of the school or the performance of the head or deputies. "

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