Short form of begging

IT all sounded so easy at the time. "Teachers (applying to cross the pay threshold) will fill in a short form summarising factual evidence to show how they meet each standard," schools minister Estelle Morris told TES readers in an article on March 31.

What she did not say - perhaps because she did not know - was that the short form would take a very long time to complete. Between 14 and 16 hours, it seems. However, if the would-be threshold-crossers still have the energy to file a complaint about time-wasting or the humiliation of having to write what amounted to a begging letter, they should perhaps direct their objections to: Wisconsin Centre for Education Research, 1025 West Johnson Street, 7th Floor, Madison, Wisconsin 353706. For, arguably, it is Wisconsin's Professor Allan Odden who is ultimately responsible for the threshold shenanigans. His arguments in favour of a private-sector-style rewards system, which were set out in Paying Teachers for What They Know and Do (1997), appear to have had a profound impact on the UK Government's thinking.

Many teachers are, of course, fundamentally opposed to this new US import. To them, the usiness salary model, and its language of "inputs" and "outputs", constitute a new, alien way of regarding the transaction between teacher and learner. But if we are to retain and reward good teachers we cannot go on simply paying them all the same regardless of how little or how much they contribute to pupils' learning.

It is, however, disappointing that yet another major education reform has been mishandled. The threshold training for heads was sometimes farcical (stories abounded of poorly-briefed trainers parroting passages from documents that had been couriered to them the day before). Intolerable burdens have been imposed on teachers and heads at one of the busiest times of the year, and there are continuing worries about the quality of the scheme's outside assessors, let alone the inevitable recriminations over rejected applications.

It is all reminiscent of the recent rash of "home make-over" TV shows - but rather less entertaining. "You have 24 hours to transform the curriculum pay system ... we will be back to inspect your paintwork tomorrow." The education service should not be treated like this, but it always is.

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