Bonuses welcome if shared by everyone

19th March 1999 at 00:00
Biddy Passmore reports on reaction from Welsh union members to the Green Paper and below Frances Rafferty on the Church's response.

TEACHERS would accept a system of bonuses for improving and high-achieving schools if the money were shared out among all the staff rather than going to individuals, responses to the Welsh Green Paper on pay and conditions suggest.

Welsh teachers have responded far more positively to the bonus plan in the collegiate way it was set out in the Welsh Green Paper than teachers in England have to the more individualistic wording in their proposals.

This difference is picked out by Sean Neill of Warwick University in his analysis of responses by teachers, heads and deputies for the National Union of Teachers.

The Green Paper for Wales referred to bonuses for "staff (teaching and non-teaching)", in high-performing schools, a wording that chimed with teachers' collective culture. Its English counterpart spoke of giving bonuses to teachers "as individuals or teams", which was greeted with great suspicion.

"It may be," says Dr Neill, "that Welsh policy-makers and teachers have shown their English colleagues how a scheme can be devised which ... can actually motivate teachers instead of being rejected and resented."

He also found the emphasis on teachers' personal development in the Welsh Green Paper made teachers in Wales much more likely than their English colleagues to accept Government plans that they should pay for their own in-service training - although he concedes this may be a difference of words rather than policy.

On the whole, however, NUT responses to the Welsh Green Paper match the hostility of those to the Green Paper for England, with added outrage in Wales because teachers there had thought they were getting a quite different version. Some teachers in Wales, where the Labour tradition is strong, felt betrayed. ("A Labour Government carrying out the Tories' dirty work for them," said one secondary teacher.) Nearly nine out of 10 Welsh respondents disagreed, most of them strongly, with the proposal that pupil progress should be part of teacher assessment. Those working in disadvantaged areas and with special needs children expressed particular concern.

The overwhelming majority of the 1,000 teachers surveyed opposed merit pay, the use of appraisal for performance-related pay and fast-tracking of the "most talented teachers". Nearly three out of four strongly agreed that teachers had a right to high-quality professional development, but only just over half agreed they should have a duty to keep their skills up to date.

Many expressed concern about the burden the proposals would place on the very high proportion of small schools in Wales.

One primary head said: "To carry out this half-baked scheme I would: spend 80 per cent of my time form-fillinginterviewing my own staff; have a set of teachers half of whom will hate the other half."

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