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Showtime on pay;Leading Article;Opinion

The headline "Merit pay tops all agendas" (page 11) is an unavoidable statement of the obvious about next week's teacher union conferences. Certainly David Blunkett must expect to have a far tougher time persuading delegates from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Union of Teachers of the merits of his Green Paper than he did in convincing MPs earlier this week.

What strategy will the Education Secretary be planning? If his showing in front of the House of Commons select committee is anything to go by, he will assert that his performance-related pay plan - to the extent that anyone understands it - is attractive to younger teachers. He will probably choose at the moderate ATL conference to make some concessions on the timetable for appraisal.

The notion that the Green Paper represents a return to 19th century "payment-by-results" he is likely to counter by emphasising that it is a promotion package for those teachers shown to be doing a good job. And then he will rely on the NUT to give him a rough ride to demonstrate that his main opponents are loutish extremists.

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