Golden hellos: Make sure you get your share

21st September 2001 at 01:00
Discretionary incentives are up for grabs, but be prepared to haggle, writes Martin Whittaker

With schools offering incentives to woo new teachers, the newly qualified could have it made. Yet new teachers can still get a poor deal, say the teaching unions.

Offers for NQTs vary according to region, and new teachers are often unprepared for bargaining their way to a decent pay package.

"They're not trained to get the best price for themselves," says Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, the second biggest teacher union. "This is entirely new to the education service."

NQTs should beware of fixed-term contracts used as periods of probation. These can bring great insecurity at the beginning of your career and jeopardise a mortgage application. If you're offered such a contract, you should ask why.

"New teachers have to be prepared to ask and make sure they challenge any disadvantages," says a spokesman for the Employers' Organisation for Local Government.

"If recruitment is good and a head knows the teacher wants to do the subject, then the incentives tend to stay in the drawer."

Pay for new teachers still lags behind the average graduate starting salary of pound;19,800. Minimum starting pay for an NQT is pound;17,001. There are extras if you teach in the capital - inner-London pay is an extra pound;3,000, outer-London is pound;1,974, and on the fringes it is pound;765.

But there are other add-ons. Schools can offer a discretionary recruitment and retention allowance which can go up to pound;5,000. And, if NQTs have relevant experience, they can get extra points on the payscale.

In shortage-subject areas such as maths, languages or English, NQTs will get a pound;4,000 golden hello at the start of the second year of teaching.

Some schools offer Early Start programmes, where teachers start in June or July and thus earn extra salary. Other sweeteners can include help with accommodation, travel and leisure facilities.

So what if NQTs do feel they are getting a poor deal? All education authorities have NQT support staff to whom they can turn to talk over any concerns. And if new teachers think their salary assessment is wrong, they can appeal to the school's governing body, but there is no mechanism for appealing against being employed on a fixed-term contract, says an NUT spokesman.

"Theoretically, the employer should have decided that there is a justifiable case for issuing a fixed-term contract," he says. "But there is clearly no reason under the induction regulations for anybody to be put on a fixed-term contract as a form of probation when they take up their first teaching post."

For further information, the NUT has a network of officers around the UK who can advise members on pay and conditions. See the union's website at www.teachers.org.uk.

The NASUWT is a good source of information. Visit www.teachersunion.org.uk or telephone 0121 453 6150.

The Teacher Training Agency has compiled a document, Career Entry Profile, to support the transition into teaching. See its website: www.canteach.gov.uk

Room for negotiation

* Find out what you are entitled to and what discretionary offers the school can make. Always be prepared to negotiate

* Ask if the school will pay a recruitment and retention allowance

* If you have related experience, the school may be able to offer you extra points on the pay scale

* Beware of fixed-term contracts. Some schools use them as a form of probation

* Ask about incentives such as help with travel or accommodation

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