But, minister...

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
Estelle Morris answers teachers' questions on the Green Paper's proposals to 'modernise' the profession. Staff were able to quiz the standards minister through The TES and its website

Sandra Bennett John Ruskin College, Croydon

I have had experience of performance-related pay in other jobs, and I have seen managers give unfair grades to those individuals who displayed the most boot-licking qualities. How do you set targets that are comparable for different departments and subjects ?

External advisers will ensure that the performance management system is operated fairly in every school - there will no place for "boot-licking" or "cronyism'.

David Smale Southway community school, Plymouth

Will there be an appeals procedure for teachers who feel unfairly treated?

Whilst the Green Paper does not propose an appeals procedure, checks in the system will make sure that no teacher is unfairly treated. External assessors and advisers will make sure that systems in schools are working properly and that standards are applied consistently acrosss all teachers.

Norah Hickey St Andrew's primary, Birmingham

Why does the Green Paper make no direct reference to deputy heads?

Nothing in our proposals detracts in any way from the very significant contribution which many deputy heads make.

By creating a leadership group we are recognising that it is not the head alone who offers strategic direction and leadership to a school - where there is one or more deputy heads we would expect that they too will be part of the leadership group.

We will want the School Teachers' Review Body to look at deputies' pay as part of the restructuring following the Green Paper.

Michael Stoker Collingwood College, Camberley, Surrey

I have an MA from London University's Institute of Education, and 30-plus years' experience teaching. Is there a case for teachers like me to be able to move automatically across the threshold to the higher-pay scale?

The threshold assessment procedure will be designed to apply fairly to all eligible teachers, including those with many years' experience. It seems right that all teachers should apply and be assessed in the same way.

Martin Healy Waveney school, Tonbridge, Kent

As a senior teacher in a special school I am unclear how I can achieve the target to do with pupils' progress. How would you measure a teacher's ability to control a class when, by its very nature, it contains troubled and dissatisfied youngsters ?

The proposals are not about crude "payment by results". The performance management arrangements put forward in the Green Paper are based on professional dialogue about aims and achievements between teacher and senior manager. It is important that objectives for pupil performance are related to teachers' own pupils and school circumstances.

Pupil performance is as much about raising standards for pupils with special needs or for whom English is a second language.

As a teacher in a special school you will have aspirations for the children in your care, and will want to set objectives that build on those aspirations. It may well be that improving behaviour in class is one of those objectives.

Jonathan Barnes St Peter's primary, Canterbury

As a headteacher, I am very worried at the prospect of judging the relative excellence of my teachers. How do I choose between the excellent and enthusiastic teacher of art, music and dance, the teacher who gives all to history and geography projects or the one who crams her class to get good test results.

Management of staff is part of the responsibility of every head. Good management means working with all staff within the context of the school, the children and the subjectyear group the teacher teaches, to raise standards for all children.

Of course teachers have different strengths and bring different assets to a school and it is the responsibility of the head to balance the contribution of each.

The proposed system is about rewarding excellence, wherever it is found and should bring out the best in all.

Mike Heaney John Port school, Etwall, Derbyshire

There are no failing teachers in my school and I find that departments work best when teachers feel part of a team.

The Green Paper proposals introduce the market into schools where individual teachers negotiate their worth with senior management.

Performance-related pay has failed in industry. What makes this government think it will succeed in a caring service?

The teaching profession is not unique in depending on teamwork to achieve high results. Teachers will in part be judged on their ability to work as effective team members.

It is difficult to see how true teamwork can be fostered by giving no rewards to those contributing most. It is more unfair to pretend that every teacher performs equally well than it is to use an equitable means of rewarding good performance.

It is not the case that business has moved away from links between pay and performance. A 1998 survey by the Institute of Personnel and Development of more than 1.5 million public and private-sector employees in the UK found that the use of performance pay is becoming increasingly widespread.

We recognise the importance of getting the system right for teachers. Headteachers already make decisions about rewarding some teachers rather than others.

Nicola Wood The Marches school, Oswestry

What will happen after the two years' funding time is over? How can schools manage to fund the "threshold teachers" after this time?

The Technical Consultation Document on Pay and Performance Management, published on February 1, makes it clear that for the two financial years 2000-2001 and 2001-2002, up to pound;1 billion is available to support the implementation of the proposals in the Green Paper. Much the largest single element of this will be the new pay arrangements.

Expenditure plans beyond that point have not yet been finalised, but clearly the new teachers' pay arrangements will be taken into account in assessing the national and local funding needs for education.

Yvonne Scott, Cox Green school, Maidenhead What will be the main features of the contract proposed for teachers who cross the threshold?

The upper pay spine is designed to offer appropriate recognition for the extra contributions that teachers already make and will continue to make to teaching and learning in schools.

This can take many forms, from leading departments or fulfilling pastoral functions, to developing new ways of learning or mentoring staff.

We are consulting whether such contributions should be formalised in a new contract.

Martin Auton, Queen Mary, Liverpool

I work in an under-resourced comprehensive in Liverpool and do not have ready access to computers. One criterion for getting across the threshold is information and communications technology competency. Will I be penalised?

Effective and comprehensive professional development is crucial if the Green Paper proposals are to succeed. The training needs that you describe will be identified and addressed under the new, more rigorous, appraisal system.

We have made a major investment in equipment, as well as setting up the infrastructure of the National Grid for Learning and developing the Virtual Teachers' Centre. The New Opportunities Fund will also provide pound;230m across the UK to ensure that teachers become confident in the use of ICT in subject teaching.

Furthermore, we are now building up a library of resources and practical tools. We are placing best practice advice, schemes of work and lesson plans on the Standards Site for teachers to access and customise. It is for teachers to use their professional judgment as to whether they wish to use this material.

Catriona Williamson Garton on the Wolds CofE primary, Driffield As a head of a two-teacher school, I teach four days a week. Will there be money to pay for cover while I carry out appraisal duties?

How long do you expect it to take to appraise one teacher?

We are committed to keeping the performance management process as simple as it can be within the bounds of national consistency and fairness.

The concept of headteachers having responsibility for performance management within their schools is not a new one.

The proposals aim to build on existing good practice, reinforcing current monitoring and evaluation work, and giving headteachers and line managers the tools to manage their staff effectively.

Heads, in common with teachers and governors, will be supported through training and guidance with regard to the new arrangements.

Peter Callery Whitcliffe Mount high, Bradford

Will there be guidelines setting out which teachers will be put on the leadership scale? If it is left to heads and governors they may make their decisions based on financial constraints.

Appointments to the leadership group will need to be in line with national guidance which will be drawn up in the light of responses to the Green Paper and on the advice of the teachers' pay review body. Governing bodies should have discretion over how many leadership posts to create, in line with their own staffing structure and budgets.

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