Money alone is not enough

2nd February 2001 at 00:00
When it comes to teachers' pay and morale, the Scottish education minister, Jack McConnell, seems to be taking the high road, leaving David Blunkett the low.

The 10 per cent offered north of the border is not strictly comparable with 3.7 per cent in England and Wales since teachers in Scotland have some catching up to do. But they may soon be doing just that, thanks to a deal worth 23 per cent by 2003 - with no thresholds or performance hurdles (or inspections by contractors).

English teachers will also look enviously at their working conditions. The Scottish contract regulates working hours and now promises a 10 per cent cut in contact time with guaranteed professional development.

Teachers in England and Wales, meanwhile, can look forward to another above-inflation rise. By April, salaries will have gone up by 25 per cent since 1997 for those qualifying for threshold payments - 37 per cent for the highest-earning headteachers.

Starting salaries, however, will have grown by just 18 per cent, even after a 6 per cent boost this April. With 30 per cent increases in London weighting, thatmeans the newly-qualified in the capital will earn pound;20,000 or more. But a recent survey by Nursery World puts that into perspective: the average salary for a daily nanny in central London has risen in the past year alone by 12 per cent to pound;22,000. Recruitment and retention of other staff, it seems, is to be largely a DIY affair with heads allowed to pay extra to tackle particular problems - if they can find the money and face the staffroom inequities.

As a response to the disillusionment in the profession and wider panic about teacher supply, 3.7 per cent on its own is not enough. Jack McConnell has grasped the nettle of a demoralised profession with a settlement that has united and inspired the service in Scotland. There is nothing generous about 3.7 per cent. So teachers will rightly be disappointed in David Blunkett unless he also has something compelling to say about improvements in conditions when the pay award is announced today.

The General Teaching Council meets again the week after next. It must spell out exactly what the profession needs to make teachers' lives sustainable.

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