Heads reject superteacher idea

10th October 1997 at 01:00
A plan to pay the best teachers extra to stay in the classroom has failed to impress school heads - who virtually ignored a similar scheme introduced four years ago.

The new grade of "advanced skills teacher", outlined in the White Paper Excellence in Schools, is expected to be launched next year.

But headteachers believe it will be divisive and will not be accepted in schools. One head described the creation of a new grade of teacher to act as an example of good classroom practice, as "garbage".

Since the launch of a similar scheme in 1993, only a handful of teachers nationwide have been given "excellence points", according to figures produced by the School Teachers Pay Review Body. The number is so small that it does not register as a percentage point in its annual report published earlier this year.

Up to three excellence points, worth about #163;2,000 each, can be added to a teacher's basic salary along with extra money for responsibility or to help schools recruit and keep staff.

Neil Thornley, chair of the National Association of Head Teachers' professional services committee and head of Fearns high school in Bacup, Lancashire, said he did not know any head who had awarded excellence points.

"We don't want extra money to pay teachers for what we expect them to do anyway," he said. "We want enough money in our budgets to pay them properly in the first place.

"Excellence points have been a complete failure. The AST plan will go the same way. It's garbage, dreamed up by people who have no idea what really goes on in schools".

Nick Brookes, head of Sherwood junior school in Nottinghamshire, described it as "a recipe for disaster".

"All our teachers need advanced skills to teach the national curriculum. Selecting some members of staff as excellent would create an artificial hierarchy and cause resentment in the staff room."

Education Secretary David Blunkett has said becoming an AST could be seen as an alternative to a headship.

They would play a key role in raising standards by supporting trainee and newly-qualified teachers, and they could become university associate fellows or professors. They could spend two or three days working outside their own school and would be especially well-suited to the new educational action zones also proposed in the White Paper.

Mr Blunkett has asked the teachers' pay review body to work out how the ASTs would be selected, what they would do and who they would be employed by.

But organisations have attacked the proposals. The Grant Maintained Schools Advisory Committee has described the plan as "an unhappy mix of advisory teacher and internal mentor".

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers says the proposals are "fundamentally misguided".

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