Cash incentives reward the few at the expense of the many

26th June 2009 at 01:00

I write in response to the new incentive payment for teachers to work in challenging schools ("Who's up for a 10k bonus?", June 12). As an ex-teacher who has worked in what would be deemed challenging schools all of my career, I would be concerned that some teachers may join such a school for monetary gain without really weighing up the implications.

Yes, it is tough to work in a challenging school - your personal safety and, at very stressful times, your health may be at risk. The workload is often overwhelming. But the fact you make a significant difference to some children's lives is in itself a huge reward. Not only are you supporting a child's academic development, but there will be pupils you may be helping to develop emotionally, helping them to see that they have options, that they have the capacity to go on to realise their dreams.

It may not be true of all teachers in every challenging school, but many of the staff I have worked with have been in them because they want to be - they thrive in such an environment and support each other through the good times and the bad.

It would be divisive if the incentive were not available to teachers who are already in such schools. Surely, a more realistic system would be to place all teachers who agree on a register at the school to which they belong. After three years, the head would then make judgments based on national standards, along with the governing body, to award Pounds 10,000 to all staff who have proved they are making a difference.

If it hadn't been for an untimely physical injury that has left me unable to work, I would still be a part of such a school. But I believe teaching is in the blood, so I now work voluntarily part-time in a school.

Recruitment and retention points have been offered to staff in challenging schools for a number of years, and they do not retain the teachers who realise they don't want to work in such an environment. Diplomas and MAs have always been offered to staff who are keen to continue professional development, so those "new" incentives are not so new after all.

The system should be rewarding all of the unsung heroes - not just the ones attracted by a financial bonus. Rather than another patronising pat on the head, the Government should restructure the outdated salary scale sensibly and pay all good teachers a decent wage.

Kate Muscroft, Former primary teacherSenco, now a writer, Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

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