Strike ballot may be delayed

A ballot on action over performance pay may not be held until after the summer, reports Nicolas Barnard

A BALLOT for strike action over performance pay by the National Union of Teachers could now be delayed until the autumn.

As The TES went to press, the union's executive was considering a timetable for the ballot narrowly agreed by its Easter conference. Union legislation means that the earliest a strike could now be held is early July - the timetable put to executive by general secretary Doug McAvoy.

Moderates who, like Mr McAvoy, oppose a one-day strike and hold a newly-strengthened majority on the executive, argue that is too late in the school year. They want the ballot deferred until after the summer. The hard left says that such a delay would mean the campaign losing all momentum.

It is another twist in the union's campaign against performance pay. The union is urging teachers to apply for the threshold which brings a pound;2,000 pay rise, despite its opposition in principle. NUT president Tony Brockman is himself intending to apply.

Mr McAvoy last week asked David Blunkett to delay the June 5 applications deadline by a month, saying teachers were too busy preparing pupils for tests and exams to fill in the complex forms.

Mr McAvoy said teachers wanted to give their applications their best attention, but not at the expense of their pupils. The move was backed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the Secondary Heads Association, but rejected by the Education Secretary.

The NUT is also still awaiting a date for its Hih Court challenge to the Government over a new duty on teachers to assist heads in implementing the scheme. Officials admitted this week that they could not yet advise members who were asked by their heads to assess colleagues.

Meanwhile, the Secondary Heads Association applied its own pressure to the Government, saying the profession would be seriously damaged if an overwhelming majority of applicants did not pass.

SHA general secretary John Dunford said the public would get the wrong message about the quality of teachers if the pass rate was less than 80 per cent: "Mr Blunkett has been saying that good teachers should be able to get through the threshold," he said. "The vast majority of experienced teachers are doing a good job in my view."

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment confirmed there were no plans to postpone the applications deadline.

A new study has found two-thirds of teachers oppose performance-related pay on principle and four out of five believed there was a quota for those passing through the threshold - something the Government denies.

The study, by David Marsden, professor of industrial relations at the London School of Economics' centre for economic performance, found that two-thirds believed performance pay was a way of avoiding giving more money to all teachers, while half thought it was a way of getting more work out of teachers.

Full details of the research can be found in Centrepiece, the CEP journal. The website address is: or tel: 020 7955 7673

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