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Teachers may profit from privatisation

Staff in privately-managed schools could share in company performance bonuses. Warwick Mansell and Sue Learner report

TEACHERS, as well as companies can profit from the success of privatised education services, Labour said this week.

As headteachers angrily hit out at the prospect of performance bonuses for firms that take over struggling local authorities and schools, Labour offered a route by which teachers could also benefit.

The move comes after David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said firms should share their profits directly with heads and classroom staff.

A spokesman for David Blunkett rejected this suggestion. But he suggested there was nothing to stop councils themselves giving schools extra cash to pay bonuses to teachers.

The spokesman said councils could simply offer a reduced bonus to a firm managing a school and use the saving to fund bonuses for the school's teachers. Effectively this would be the same as the company paying staff a share of its bonus.

The spokesman said: "Councils can say from the outset 'we are getting in a company to run some of our services, but at the same time, we'll be providing recruitment and retention funding to reward those schools that are improving results'."

His comments came after Kevin McNeany, chairman of Nord Anglia, which last week became the first profit-making firm to win a contract to run a state school, said he had no objection in principle to paying incentives to teachers.

However, the concession is unlikely to benefit the staff of the privatised school, Abbeylands comprehensive in Surre. Mr McNeany said profit-sharing would only work if teachers were employees of the company. Under Nord Anglia's contract, Abbeylands staff will remain employed by the local authority.

Mr Hart predicted this week that few schools would be privatised along the lines of Abbeylands and another Surrey comprehensive, King's College, Guildford.

Meanwhile, in another sign of the controversy facing Labour's bid to bring the private sector into education, teachers are alarmed that the country's first city academy may not recognise the teaching unions.

Jenny Armstrong, project manager of the academy, which will replace the School of St David and St Katherine, in Haringey, north London, in September, said some city technology colleges - on which the independent but state-funded city academies are based - did not recognise the unions.

She said: "There is no final position on it (union recognition) at the moment. It is felt that at times, unions can be more of a hindrance than a help."

City academies will have the same rights as city technology colleges to ignore national pay and conditions arrangements.

Most schools must recognise unions because local authorities, the official employers of most teachers, recognise them. However, technology colleges and academies are independent of authorities, allowing scope for non-recognition.

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary designate of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "It's hardly a way to encourage staff to work at a city academy if the first thing they do is say they're not going to recognise trade unions."

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