Frosty on the fast track and anxious about appraisal

4th December 1998 at 00:00
MEETING THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE

Teachers might not be taking to the barricades over the Green Paper today - but that does not mean the Government can expect an easy ride.

The devil may lie in details which will become clear only in the coming months.

Classroom unions will look closely at the appraisal system for the new higher teaching grade - asking who will judge their members, how often, and against what criteria.

And the civil service-style "fast-track" for top graduates, trailed by David Blunkett in interviews last weekend, was quickly condemned as an insult to serving teachers. "The professional support offered to these whiz-kids should be available to every entrant into teaching," National Union of Teachers' general secretary Doug McAvoy said. "Their zooming up the salary scale will leave the vast majority of teachers that have worked hard feeling hurt and insulted."

John Dunford of the Secondary Heads Association said: "A fast-track graduate may be the brightest but may not be able to cope with 2c on a Friday afternoon. "

Teaching unions are actually quite happy to see teachers appraised on their skills - it is the link to pupil performance they will not support.

But the appraisal power given to heads offers potential conflict over what some will see as subjective judgments.

If heads have won that argument, they still give only lukewarm welcome to the paper. David Hart of the National Association of Head Teachers echoed classroom colleagues in saying: "It will not in itself crack the recruitment crisis.

"The only way we will recruit and retain is by ensuring the majority of teachers who are putting in a good performance week in, week out, get better financial rewards."

Nigel de Gruchy of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers said appraisal based on competences had been NASUWT policy for 15 years.

But he said: "Year-on-year is too frequent and the system will fall into disuse. It should be done at regular intervals of three, four or even five years."

Bonuses for top schools were "bad news", he said - and not just because of the link to pupil performance.

"It will work in a corrupt way. Heads will pocket their share but I can't see it going to other people. They will spend it on other things because schools are still short of money."

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers fears the fast-track and PRP will discriminate against women. Even the Professional Association of Teachers is unimpressed. General secretary Kay Driver said the new structure would fail to attract new teachers without significantly higher salaries. Nor had the shortage of heads been addressed.

Unions want to know precisely how the cash will be delivered to teachers' pay packets - as will local authorities, who will be pleased with the paper (as it is close to their own submission). But they fear that problems may lie ahead.

"Appraisal is never popular and certainly the Socialist Workers' party wing of the NUT will kick up a fuss," Graham Lane, education chair of the Local Government Association, said.

The Government has dodged the issue of teachers' 1,265 hours-a-year contract - although fast-trackers will be expected to train in their holidays.

Unions warn any attempts to impose extra hours on other teachers will be fiercely resisted.

* A separate White Paper for Scotland is due to be published next month

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