At last teachers know when the 'threshold' pay award will arrive, but many
controversial aspects of the scheme are unchanged, reports Lisa Hutchins.
FOR months the same question has echoed around the country's staffrooms: when do we get our pound;2,000?
Teachers' impatience has been justified: the implementation of the Government's perfomance-related pay scheme could not have been more tortuous. A time-consuming application process was followed by a High Court ruling that plunged the whole scheme into confusion.
But the publication of an emergency review of the scheme by the School Teachers' Review Body - which advises the Government on teacher pay and conditions - has finally ended the uncertainty.
As The TES reported last week, the review body has paved the way for teachers to receive their rises before Easter 2001. However, it also endorses key, controversial aspects of the scheme.
Its report is the culmination of a bitter dispute between the Government and National Union of Teachers
The union argued that the profession had not been properly consulted over performance-related pay. In July, the battle was taken to the High Court where a judge agreed with the union and quashed the new deal.
As a result the review body was asked to report on the standards classroom teachers had been asked to meet to cross the performance threshold to a new, higher pay scale (see below).
The report also examines the role of head teachers in assessing staff and looks at whether teachers have a duty to provide information about their colleagues' performance to senior management - a clause in the pay deal that has been branded a "snooper's charter".
The body acknowledges that there are some aspects of the threshold arrangements that caused concern, but rejects the idea that the whole process should start again.
It says: "In the light of the consensus on the need to complete the first round of assessments as quickly as possible we have no hesitation in recommending (they)... should continue to be used."
One of the most hotly-contested aspects of the scheme was the link between teachers' pay and pupil progress. On this, the body sides with the Government. "We remain of the view that pupil progress, fairly assessed in the context of the school and the pupils' backgrounds, should be part of the process for identifying good teaching."
The review body stresses that the scheme must be closely monitered. It suggests any future review should have access to an evaluation of its first year.
It dismisses claims that the scheme has not been sufficiently publicised or that teachers have been unaware of the need to apply for te threshold award.
The report does recognise that there will be some exceptional cases where staff have good reason for applying late and suggests they should be considered. It also suggests a move to an autumn deadline for the threshold application forms.
On the issue of the formal entitlement of teachers to apply to cross the threshold, it stresses heads have a duty to inform teachers when they are eligible.
It is hopeful that the threshold assessment will become a recognised and familiar step in teachers' career ladder.
One of the biggest changes recommended by the review body is the introduction of external appeals. The report says, "We recognise the importance of consistency in the application of the threshold standards to help establish the integrity of the new arrangements and in view of the large sums of public money involved.
"Much rests on the quality of the judgments of the heads of some 25,500 schools. Some form of validation is required and the use of external assessors is in our view a sensible approach - a view shared by most consultees."
It points out that repeated failure to pass the threshold assessment successfully will be extremely demoralising. Teachers who believe they have been wrongly assessed must have the right to appeal, it says.
As far as the "Snooper's Charter" is concerned, the review body says that the duty to provide information about colleagues should be restricted to line managers. The report suggests that the thorny issue of duties of head teachers and others in respect of the threshold should be evaluated and reviewed.
Copies of the School Teachers' Review Body report, "Special review of the threshold standards for classroom teachers and related matters," are available from the Stationery Office. Tel. 0845 702 3474 or see www.ukstate.com. The closing date for consultation is November 10.
* PERFORMANCE RELATED PAY: THE REVIEW BODY'S VERDICT
Threshold standards and procedures: Threshold arrangements for classroom teachers should go ahead using the original standards and procedures.
Future review: The Government should evaluate the scheme by 2002
Application deadlines: Existing applications should stand. New applications should only be accepted in exceptional circumstances.
Information: All teachers should be provided with a clear and simple leaflet setting out the new pay structure each year.
Feedback: Guidance should be provided emphasising the importance of feedback to teachers who fail to pass the threshold assessment.
Individual reviews: Teachers should have the right to appeal against decisions to a second assessor or another body.