Clare Dean reports from the GM schools conference where members were urged to opt out of the national pay scales.
The London Oratory - the grant-maintained school chosen for the son of the Labour party leader - is considering a shift system for staff. The school, which is the only one in the country to have opted out of the national pay system, is looking at two shifts - from 9am to 4pm, and from 10am to 5pm.
The school is seeking Government approval to become a choir school from September and if given the go-ahead will take in pupils from the age of seven and open on Saturday mornings.
Headteacher John Mclntosh told the annual conference of GM schools last week in Birmingham that he was now considering moving to a shift system to "make better use of resources and iron out some timetabling difficulties". He has already spoken to staff within the school's music department about working half a day on Saturdays in exchange for time off in lieu during the week.
When the school was given Government approval to opt out of the national pay scale from September 1993, it also gained permission to alter staff conditions of service. "We have concerned ourselves mainly with pay and the salary structure but conditions of service - the 1,265 hours and five professional days - all come within this," said Mr McIntosh.
"The Oratory's governing body now has the power if it wants to change teachers' hours and abolish the professional days. It chose not to but could change quite radically the conditions of service if it wanted. I suspect that is what we will gradually do."
Mr McIntosh also urged other GM heads to opt out of national pay and conditions. He said: "Do it. One of the reasons I am keen that as many GM schools as possible do it is that it makes the whole GM sector much more secure if there is a change of government. The more changes there are to the system, the more difficult it is for them to put it back together again."
The pay structure at the school is based on the 1987 arrangements with scale points, responsibility and discretionary allowances. From September, standard scale points for Oratory teachers start at Pounds 15,012 rising to Pounds 23,358. In addition, there are extra allowances of between Pounds 1,587 and Pounds 8,460 for teachers with extra responsibilities. Staff can also qualify for discretionary allowances up to Pounds 3,186.
In comparison, the national scale ranges from Pounds 11,883 to Pounds 32,169 (from April 1995). Most classroom teachers are between points 9 and 13 on the national scale and, with minor extra responsibilities, earn a maximum Pounds 26,106.
Senior teachers at the school will be paid an annual salary of Pounds 36,462 while deputy heads will receive Pounds 39,105. Salaries for deputy heads recommended by the School Teachers Review Body range from Pounds 23,676 in a group 1 school to Pounds 38,946 at the top of group 6. The school's six housemasters also receive an annual maximum of Pounds 531 for midday supervision, while teachers are paid Pounds 3.71 for each duty of 20 minutes.
Mr Mclntosh, whose own salary at more than Pounds 50,000 last year was one of the highest for headteachers in the country, receives the same percentage rise recommended by the STRB for heads. He said most staff received 1 to 1.5 per cent more than salaries recommended by the STRB.
"It is not a huge amount, that wasn't the principal reason, but a lot of trouble went into making sure no one would be worse off." The reason the school had opted out of national pay and conditions was because pay represented 77 to 80 per cent of its budget: "It seemed absurd that a school that was supposed to be as independent as possible should not have control over that." Mr Mclntosh said he was against performance-related pay for schools as it was very difficult to devise indicators for teachers.