Ministers told 'don't rush pay reforms'

4th February 2000 at 00:00
Government receives clear signal that plans to modernise salary scales will require massive culture change

THE Government is facing major problems with its plans to "modernise" teachers' pay and conditions, its senior advisers warn.

In the strongest message yet to ministers, the School Teachers' Review Body said there was "real concern about the need to win teacher support" for the new pay structure unveiled this week.

In its 100-page report it said that it shared teachers' concerns that "change was being attempted too quickly across too broad a front" and added "a huge agenda of reform is being attempted over a short period of time".

The review body said reforms would fail unless they were funded in full and proposed a national funding formula for schools - the most important group yet to do so.

The warning came as Hay McBer, the consultants working on the new performance management system which will underpin the new structure, also said the timetable for introduction was too tight and that a massive culture change in the profession would be needed if reforms were to succeed.

The review body has delivered a structure to put into practice the Government's controversial Green Paper proposals. Members said they believed it would work, but only if ministers delivered the cash and support. It emphasised the need for a full programme of professional development and for a "containment" of teachers' workload which continued to cause considerable concern.

The STRB warned the Government not to distract teachers with initiatives such as the fast track for graduates or whole-school bon-uses, but to concentrate on selling the new perormance threshold.

During visits to schools, members found evidence of low teacher morale and motivation. "Many teachers feel under pressure and the object of excessive criticism," the report said.

The review body said it shared doubts about how practical the new fast-track teachers scheme would be in identifying high-flyers before they had done any teaching practice.

Rewards for excellence would put "new pressures" on funding, the report warned. Underfunding has been blamed for the failure of previous attempts to introduce merit pay.

The pound;1 billion guaranteed for the first two years "must be followed by arrangements which give governors, heads and teachers confidence in the adequacy of funding," the report said.

Some 250,000 experienced teachers are eligible to apply next month to cross a performance threshold which would give them a pound;2,000 pay rise and access to a new higher pay scale leading to salaries of more than pound;30,000.

A new system of "performance management" or appraisal is also being introduced.

It was essential to the long-term success of the new structure, the review body said. But Frank Hartle of Hay McBer warned last week that introducing the new structure would not be easy.

Few heads were used to passing judgment on their teachers, he told a conference of local authority appraisal advisers. Too few heads and senior teachers observed lessons and many would need training on it. "You can't possibly train anybody to observe lessons in a day. Where are they going to get the confidence?" he said.

MORE ON PAY:

News, 3, 4, 5 amp; 6;

Leader, 18; Debate, 19;

Briefing, 24 amp; 25


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