Much of the response to the Government Green Paper, Teachers - meeting the challenge of change, might have concentrated on "payment by results", but pupil performance will be only one of the factors to impact on levels of pay - and it will not necessarily be the most significant.
Tough talk about performance pay may play well around the Cabinet table. It helps Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett persuade the Treasury to part with more money. But so far, it has successfully obscured the genuinely radical proposal contained in the Green Paper - the suggestion that new "national" standards are to be drawn up - definitions of what constitutes good teaching.
It is clear from the document -rather than the summary issued to teachers - that pupil performance is not necessarily going to be the most important determinant of teachers' pay and should in any case take account of any special circumstances affecting teaching rather than be based on national norms. The idea is that good teaching should be rewarded wherever it occurs, not just in classes of high flyers.
Exactly how this will work remains to be seen: full details of the Government's plans for "performance management" will not be revealed until early next year. But proposals in the Green Paper suggest that teachers' annual performance assessment will reflect objectives that are specific to individual teachers and related to schools' own performance targets. Those targets are set internally, to reflect the school's own circumstances, and teachers' appraisal objectives will inevitably follow suit.
As the Green Paper says: "It would be wrong to make crude links between teacher performance and pupil outcome. Issues such as student mobility, absenteeism or curriculum changes and variations among subjects may need to be taken into account."
The Green Paper also makes it clear that all teachers - not just those earning less than Pounds 23,000 - can pass the "performance threshold", which provides an immediate 10 per cent increase and access to salary scales rising initially to Pounds 35,000. So heads of year, heads of department and other more senior staff are also promised an early 10 per cent increase.
Crossing that threshold will involve largely internal assessment by heads,with advice from their heads of department or deputies. Heads' judgements will be checked by external assessors who will review the evidence compiled in each case and watch a sample of candidates' teaching.
For those internal assessments (see below) teachers simply have to demonstrate "positive outcomes for pupils' performance". That is, to show pupils have made appropriate progress. It is teachers' own performance in the classroom that will be judged against "national standards", not the results of their pupils. And it is these judgments that are to be checked by external assessors against those standards.
Mr Blunkett said he expects most teachers to qualify for higher pay scales. But individuals' progress will depend upon two areas of competence: their own ability to demonstrate professional skill against national standards; and the ability of heads not only to recognise good teaching, but to monitor and record it in a manner that will satisfy the external moderator.
There is, of course, a third possible limitation: the money to finance it all. The Government has said it will ring-fence performance payments to prevent governors spending them on other priorities.
But how far is it prepared to issue a blank cheque to ensure every teacher who passes the threshold assessment gets the money? Will assessments be rationed to begin with? Or will standards be adjusted to fit the available cash?
It is also not clear either who will be drawing up the standards of good teaching or checking heads' adherence to them. These will be needed within 18 months if the salary arrangements are to be in place by September 2000; sooner if heads are to receive the promised training in their use.
The Teacher Training Agency is one possible candidate. It has a track record in specifying bureaucratic "standards" for headteachers, subject leaders, special-needs coordinators and new teachers. But it lacks an operational arm to police these standards and has to rely on the Office for Standards in Education to make judgements on the ground - even in its own teacher training backyard.
The creation of new national standards of good classroom performance cannot be ignored by the school inspection system. And if HM Inspectorate or registered school inspectors are expected to apply these or play a part in moderating heads' judgements, it seems likely that OFSTED will need some role in drawing up the definitions. Its pronouncements on the efficacy of phonics this week are a reminder that it is more than ready to comment on what constitutes best practice.
To what extent will the profession be allowed to contribute to that definition? If that depends upon the setting up of the new General Teaching Council, that contribution may, initially at least, be zero.
The GTC is not expected to meet for the first time until September 2000, by which time the standards will be in place.
The suggestion of national teaching standards ought, perhaps, to hasten the creation of the GTC. But if national standards become the new battleground for control of the classroom before the GTC can be mobilised, they may well have the opposite effect.
More pay then may be at the cost of less say. Will professionalism again be something done to teachers rather than by them?
Pay beyond the threshold will depend on:
* Sustained high-quality teaching resulting in "positive outcomes for pupils' performance" * Commitment to professional development that improves classroom performance * Assessment by the head of teachers' performance against new national standards * External checks on heads' judgments Briefing Analysis 21 TESJDecember 11 1998 'Pupil performance is not necessarily going to be the most important determinant of teachers' pay'