Editorial: Earn as you train

11th September 1998 at 01:00
Last week, members of the National Union of Teachers told us what they didn't want from David Blunkett's new "something for something" pay structure: payment by results. This week, what teachers' employers do want from a modernised contract began to emerge: extra salary increments for teachers willing to work 10 extra days; revised terms and working conditions; and a new management grade with no limits on time worked.

These ingredients - and others - will all be stirred into the debate to be launched next month by the Government's Green Paper. The aim will be to secure, in David Blunkett's words, "a profession which is held in high esteem and which attracts the most talented people to join it".

The Government, meanwhile, has its own ideas about how best to develop its plans for a modernised profession with "incentives for excellence". These will almost certainly include more flexible working hours to enable after-school clubs and holiday catch-up schemes to operate, and some direct relationship between extra pay and pupil progress.

David Blunkett has promised this would not mean "crude payment by results", and it is good to see the Prime Minister (see Platform, above) taking the point that teachers should get credit for driving up standards in the toughest neighbourhoods. But important though these developments may be for the long-term health of the profession, the Government ought not to neglect immediate short-term problems - particularly in areas like inner London where teacher shortages are already apparent, especially at senior levels.

If the Government's answers to the crisis are all in the longer term, then things are likely to get worse before they get better. As with health service waiting lists, the current situation may be the fruits of the previous administration; but it is up to today's ministers to take the necessary short-term measures to ameliorate their worst effects. To make teaching in the capital more attractive, for instance, the Government might consider bringing teacher trainers and schools together in an earn-as-you-train scheme for young graduates - in return for a commitment to work in a London school thereafter.

And unless it takes immediate steps to stem the loss of good teachers from tough areas, Tony Blair's vision of schools as a crucial element in the social glue which holds communities together will prove hard to sustain.

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