Careers - Become a big fish

25th September 2009 at 01:00
Those approaching threshold will be glad to see less stifling bureaucracy and more money, says Nick Morrison

When Gina* was applying to go on the upper pay scale, she found it a daunting task. Gathering two years of evidence in support of her claim involved trawling through records long-forgotten.

What made it even harder was that in her case it involved two different schools. "It was hugely time-consuming," she says. It may be too late for Gina, but the good news is that teachers won't have to jump through these hoops in the future.

Ever since the upper pay scale was introduced in 2000, teachers have had to fill in an application form, including evidence to show how they had met each of the standards required to cross the "threshold" and advance from the main pay scale.

The rewards were appealing - outside the London area it would mean the difference between #163;30,842 a year at M6, the top of the main scale, and #163;33,412 a year on U1, the first rung on the upper pay scale - but the bureaucracy was stifling.

From September, the process has changed. No longer will teachers have to apply; instead it will become part of the performance management review.

In practice, this means teachers approaching threshold will have to ensure their performance management review acknowledges they have met the core and post-threshold standards in each area. They may still be required to produce evidence to their reviewer, but there should be no need to track back through two years of records.

The standards themselves fall into three categories: professional attributes; professional knowledge and understanding; and professional skills. These are broken down into core standards every teacher is expected to meet, standards required to cross threshold, and those for excellent and advanced skills teachers.

For example, under professional skills, as well as meeting the core standard of teaching engaging and motivating lessons, teachers aiming to pass threshold will also have to demonstrate they have "teaching skills which lead to learners achieving well relative to their prior attainment, making progress as good as, or better than, similar learners nationally."

The changes have been introduced in consultation with the teaching unions. "There was a view that we needed to strip away the bureaucracy attached to this," says Bob Johnson, head of salaries, pensions and conditions of service at the NASUWT teacher union.

"The requirement to demonstrate you meet the standards is still there, but the paperwork has been slimmed down."

The other plus of the new system is that it ties crossing the threshold to the performance management system for the first time. "It has become more professionally rooted, rather than saying 'Apply for it and see how you get on'," adds Mr Johnson.

"If performance management is secure and well-run it should provide the evidence for those judgments to be made."

It's not compulsory - teachers on M6 are not required to attempt to pass through threshold - but if you do want to try you should indicate to your reviewer that you wish to be assessed on that basis, with no time-consuming application form to complete.

Once you have completed your sixth year of teaching, all you have to do is inform your headteacher that you are eligible to go on to the upper pay scale. The head will then look at performance management reviews over the past two years, and if you have met the required standards you will pass threshold.

One result should be to raise the profile of performance management, says Usman Gbajabiamila, policy adviser for pay and conditions at ATL teacher union. Previously, performance reviews were only relevant in pay terms in moving from one spine on the upper scale to another. Making progress from the main scale dependant on reviews will help promote them as part of teachers' professional development.

"There is more meaning in performance management now and it gives it a more practical basis," says Mr Gbajabiamila.

"It means teachers will be much more engaged with their own career development earlier in their career."

Schools have varied in their approach to performance management, but now the reviews are compulsory teachers should no longer miss out. Teachers aiming to pass threshold will effectively have a two-year assessment period.

*Name has been changed


- Start thinking about threshold in your fifth year of teaching - you will need to show you have met the standards over a two-year period.

- Make sure your reviewer is aware you will be eligible, so your objectives are set accordingly.

- There is no blanket approach to meeting the standards - you need evidence that is relevant to you in your school.

- For more information about pay scales and the 2009 pay and conditions document, visit www.teachernet.

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