Apathy 'will sink' pay plan

11th February 2000 at 00:00
Teacher unions have said David Blunkett's 'flawed' performance pay scheme may never get off the ground. Nicolas Barnard reports.

DAVID Blunkett has been told to tear up plans for performance- related pay, or risk widespread apathy from teachers that could scupper the scheme.

Teaching unions are to seek an urgent meeting with the Education Secretary over plans to link higher pay to pupil progress.

Under the plan, consistent progress by pupils would be just one of eight standards teachers would need to meet to cross the "threshold" onto a new, higher pay scale - and win an immediate pound;2,000 rise.

The National Union of Teachers said the proposals were beyond tweaking. General secretary Doug McAvoy said: "This pay structure cannot be made acceptable. You cannot start with a flawed framework."

And Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "The scheme is in danger of collapsing under the weight of apathy. If no one applies, the scheme will be a failure before it even starts."

The Department for Education and Employment is geared up for one its biggest tasks yet. School standards minister Estelle Morris has called the introduction of the threshold "one of the most important moments in the development of the teaching profession".

The DFEE will rein back other projects and drastically cut the paperwork sent out to schools while it is put in place.

Ministers also issued a consultation paper this week on professional development, regarded as essential to underpin the new pay system.

Described as a "work in progress", it includes a raft code of practice and proposes a pound;3 million fund for scholarships for teachers to undertake research. Teachers could be given sabbaticals. But they will have to wait until the Government's comprehensive spending review in the summer to see what cash is available for more basic training.

The standards drawn up by the DFEE for crossing the pay threshold say: "teachers should demonstrate that ... their pupils achieve well relative to the pupils' prior attainment, making progress as good or better than similar pupils nationally."

Accompanying guidance says teachers should demonstrate a pattern of good results over two or three years.

A senior source said teachers would not be judged on persistent absentees or pupils who had only just joined their class.

Headteachers' unions repeated the concerns voiced last week by the School Teachers' Review Body that the timescale for bringing in the new scheme was extremely tight. Some 240,000 teachers are eligible to cross the threshold, and heads will have to decide on every application.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, has written to Mr Blunkett, urging him to instruct local authorities and quangos to ensure schools are given the breathing space to bring in the new system.

The senior DFEE source admitted that the review body's fears were well founded.

"We are moving very quickly. But we have to if we want to bring about a cultural change.

"We have to make sure that all eligible teachers are able to go through. If you spread it over two or three years, it might not be fair."

Briefing, 24 amp; 25

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