Confused heads face pay decision burden

9th June 2000 at 01:00
Teachers spent hours filling in threshold forms. Now their managers fear they will take weeks to assess. Nicolas Barnard reports

IN anger, frustration and resignation, teachers filled them in. Now it is headteachers' turn to look in despair at the threshold application forms.

As they prepared to assess their share of some 250,000 six-page forms, heads were not happy. They complained of confusion, conflicting advice, and huge workload caused by the latest training sessions designed to help them decide who moves on to the new, higher pay scale - and gets an immediate pound;2,000 pay rise.

Teachers, meanwhile, complained about the time they had spent filling in the forms before Monday's deadline, with reports of major problems with the Government's on-line version.

Some teachers spent several hours simply entering the copy on computer. They complained of text being lost without warning and fonts switching unexpectedly to bold or italics. Most frustratingly, writing more than five lines in any of the eight sections led to the bottom of the page dropping off - some heads received forms with no space to add their evaluations.

The Department for Education and Employment said that this feature was deliberate to encourage candidates to keep their answers tight.

"We don't want to create a lot of work for teachers. It's not designed to expand," a spokesman said.

Heads were this week given half-a-day's training to deal with any queries ariing from the applications. But many complained the sessions were too short to discuss individual problems, and contained advice that conflicted with messages given at the first training sessions in March.

And they were shocked at how much work will be needed assess each application.

Some were told they would have to write around 150 words for each of the eight criteria teachers must meet - 1,200 words per form in all, with some heads receiving 80 forms.

Others were told they would have to check the evidence for each application.

For each section they would have to explain the reason for their decision, provide supplementary evidence and set out proposals for further training.

Some were told poor applications could be passed on heads' own knowledge of the candidate.

One head, Angela Daly of Cranbrook school in Kent, said: "I came away from the training feeling rather less clear than I did before it." She estimated it would take up to 17 days to assess her 34 applicants.

On disk or paper, teachers complained the forms took much longer to complete than the 25 minutes which the DFEE had led them to expect they would.

Birmingham teacher Di Fowler told The TES it had taken her three days to amass evidence and fill out the form - time she should have spent planning for the coming half term. Heads reported forms being delivered to their homes as late as 11pm Monday.

Ted Wragg, 36 International, 18 Leader, 20.

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