Career path to danger

25th February 2005 at 00:00
The professional framework proposed by the GTCW would inevitably mean lower pay for Welsh teachers, writes Tim Cox

The consultation initiated by the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) for a professional development framework for teachers is fraught with danger.

The council suggests that, at the moment, career paths for teachers are unclear and it puts forward the idea of five accredited "milestones" (TES Cymru, February 11). The first two (qualified teacher status and induction) are already compulsory. The next two - for classroom excellence and middle leaders - are new.

What this would mean is that teachers would be responsible for undertaking additional training, maybe in their own time and at their own expense, with no prospect of more money.

It is questionable whether this work is within the remit of the GTCW. The council's focus should be on maintaining the register of teachers, dealing with disciplinary matters, and providing advice to the Welsh Assembly government on the standards of teaching.

The milestones are entirely within the area of pay and conditions of service, which are not devolved to Wales, and thus nothing to do with the GTCW. The current pay structure already gives teachers a coherent career path: of QTS, threshold and upper pay spine for classroom teachers, and allowances and leadership posts for management.

One of the greatest dangers is that separate career paths for teachers in Wales will lead to the separation of pay and conditions from England. Once the milestones were established they might then become mandatory for progression to higher pay points.

If these standards were Wales-only, it would mean divorcing the pay structure from England. Wales is a low-wage economy. Such a separation could only have a detrimental effect on the levels of pay for teachers in Wales.

The Assembly government has said it does not want teachers' pay devolved to Wales. It is not clear, therefore, why the GTCW is embarking on this path.

In the past, teachers had to take on management roles to earn higher pay.

In primary schools these roles have very often been undertaken without remuneration. From the outset in 1997, the Labour government realised that the most important job in education was the classroom teacher's. It developed a framework that would reward teachers for staying in the classroom, with the creation of threshold and upper pay spine.

That framework is likely to change still further as a result of the recommendations made this week by the School Teachers' Review Body, based on proposals from teacher unions, employers and government. These include an "excellent teachers" scheme and defined posts of responsibility in teaching and learning to replace management allowances.

All of this is centred on raising standards in schools and rewarding teachers for the vital work they carry out. It is a cheap option to look at milestones which require more commitment from teachers without more pay.

Another big problem with the GTCW's ideas is the continued unfairness in access to professional development. Inequalities have been exacerbated by the raiding of schools' in-service training budgets. Teachers can often only access continuing professional development (CPD) by application to the GTCW's own fund.

This is distorting the original intention of the strategy which was to develop individual teachers' own CPD and not to provide for training for national or school-based initiatives.

The professional milestones model could not provide an equitable approach to teachers' career progression unless the inequalities in the CPD system were removed by providing an entitlement for all teachers, delivered by their em-ployers. It is unacceptable for the GTCW to suggest that there will be additional hurdles placed in the way of teachers' career development. In Wales there is a clear link between performance management and pay. Proper development opportunities should be delivered through performance management, universally and consistently applied across all schools.

It is quite clear that teachers in Wales would not appreciate a professional development framework that requires additional workload but does not automatically give rise to additional pay.

Proposals that would, almost inevitably, result in a split in teachers' pay and conditions of service from England would be wholly detrimental to teachers in Wales and must be resisted.

Tim Cox writes here as a classroom teacher and national executive member for the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers in South Wales. He is also an elected member of the General Teaching Council for Wales

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