Ministers demand bids for super staff

27th November 1998 at 00:00
Ministers have pledged to get tough with 65 English local authorities which have refused to bid for Government cash to fund superteachers.

They say schools which want to employ advanced skills teachers, but are not supported by their authorities should report their case to the Department for Education and Employment.

The LEAs' reaction is embarrassing as the new grade, which allows excellent classroom teachers to earn up to Pounds 40,000, is integral to the Government's Green Paper on the future of the profession, expected next week.

The scheme, piloted in specialist schools, is to go nationwide with a target of 5,000 posts by 2001.

Some councils have refused to bid on political grounds after the teacher unions branded the grade divisive. The rest say they cannot afford it, because they have to match the Government grant. Authorities are expected to contribute Pounds 16.4 million next year.

Ross Willmott, Leicester City's Labour chair of education, said the AST scheme would conflict with their own "team-based approach" to spreading best practice.

He said the policy could create conflict between the council and the unions, and between teachers.

Birmingham, whose chief education officer, Tim Brighouse, is vice-chair of the Government's standards task force, has not bid.

A spokeswoman said: "We have a scheme which recompenses the whole school rather than the individual teacher." Birmingham may bid in the future.

Stuart Lindeman, assistant education director at Leicestershire County Council, said: "We have some of these posts in our specialist colleges and members decided to monitor them first."

Maureen Cruickshank, principal of Beauchamp College, Leicestershire, a technology college which already has five ASTs and wants one for every department in the school, said she was disappointed with the LEA's stance.

Brian Atkinson, Rochdale's director of education, said the council had prioritised other bids, such as social exclusion grants and special needs.

A spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers said members had not been asked to encourage councils to reject superteacher bids. But they had been advised to press individual schools not to apply for an AST.

A Government source said: "We will make it clear to authorities which do not submit bids that we will pursue this with them. "

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