Frances Rafferty on why local authorities' attempts to hit national targets may have the opposite effect
Teachers vital to the Government's drive to raise standards are being lured out of the classroom - ironically by local authorities eager to meet Labour's targets.
Hundreds of staff who are expert in teaching the 3Rs are taking up better-paid posts co-ordinating local authority literacy and numeracy projects. Headteachers fear some of their best staff will be lost.
Local authorities have been given tough literacy targets, with numeracy targets to follow. These are intended to enable the Government to have 80 per cent of 11-year-olds meeting the required standard in reading and writing, and 75 per cent in maths by 2002.
Most councils have responded by advertising for literacy and numeracy co-ordinators at a typical salary of Pounds 30,000. Around 600 such posts are likely to be created, at an estimated annual cost of Pounds 20 million.
Esme Corner, treasurer of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "When we most need good teachers in the classroom, they are being attracted to such posts. I can hardly blame them, it means a considerable salary increase and an interesting career advancement.
"I am sure these posts are useful, but if it is the Government's intention that money should go straight to the classroom then the proliferation of these posts will not help."
John Howson, teacher recruitment analyst, said the posts could cream off potential deputy and headteacher candidates. Once somebody had become a literacy or numeracy co-ordinator it was unlikely they would return to teaching, especially as they would have to have taken the headship qualification to get back to a similar salary.
Mr Howson said: "Somebody needs to do a cost analysis. Is the literacy drive to be a nationally co-ordinated one, or is the strategy to be decided by each local authority?" The School Standards and Framework Bill gives local authorities a statutory duty to promote high standards. Their performance will be monitored by ministers through five-yearly inspections, announced last week.
In response, councils are expanding their education departments with consultants on literacy, numeracy, early years and the curriculum. They are also employing extra inspection and advisory staff, with salaries and expenses being paid from the education budgets and - after successful bids - from the standards fund.
Andy Inett, spokesman for the Local Government Management Board, the teachers' employers, said: "We are pleased that education authorities are being written back into the script by the Government. But if they are to given a new role in raising standards, it needs to be appreciated that this means less, rather than more, money can be delegated to schools, despite what ministers say."
Bruce Douglas, president of the Secondary Heads Association said: "We are concerned that a responsibility or partial responsibility for standards does not mean LEAs should restaff old empires. School managements monitor standards; local authorities should play a secondary role.
"We agree with the White Paper that most of the money should go directly to schools and we can then choose to buy services, rather than being given offers we can't refuse."
There is already pressure to recruit more teachers for infants because of Labour's pledge to reduce classes to 30. Stephen Byers, the school standards minister, has said 6,000 extra teachers will be needed.
One of the main concerns of the teachers' pay review body, whose report was published after The TES went to press, is how to recruit and retain high quality staff and managers in schools.
LEA targets, page 7