Heads get extra months to sort staff structures. William Stewart reports
The Welsh Assembly has given its heads an extra three months to review school staffing structures, adding to pressure on the Westminster government to follow suit.
Headteachers on both sides of the border originally only had until the end of the year to finalise radical staffing reviews.
They include making the controversial switch from management allowances to teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payments, which is expected to lead to eventual pay cuts for thousands of teachers. The need for lengthy consultations on the restructuring, and the long wait for official guidance, had led many heads to warn that the timetable was too tight to do the job properly.
This week the Welsh Assembly extended the deadline for staffing reviews until March 31, 2006.
An Assembly government spokesperson said its consultation found that the December deadline was unrealistic and called for greater flexibility.
It was important to allow Welsh heads, who will not receive official guidance until October - five months after their English counterparts - enough time to prepare.
The decision came as the Secondary Heads Association, a member of the Rewards and Incentives Group (RIG), which set the original deadline, changed its position and said it, too, would now be pushing for an extension in England.
Martin Ward, SHA deputy general secretary, said: "We welcome the Welsh decision as a sensible move because our members are reporting a great deal of difficulty in getting this restructuring process into place in the limited time available.
"The Department for Education and Skills clearly needs to consider making a similar move."
SHA had previously said the timescale was adequate.
Welsh schools will still have to implement their new structures by the end of 2008 and will not be able to award new management allowances after the end of 2005.
But they will be able to award temporary management allowances right up to December 31, which can then be paid for up to a year afterwards.
Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary and RIG member, said the decision was highly regrettable, would create uncertainty for Welsh teachers and had the potential to case widespread disaffection.
"Those who responded to the consultation seeking a delay will undoubtedly claim this decision as a victory," she said. "However, when the full consequences become clear, teachers in Wales will certainly not view it as such."
But Anna Brychan, director of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru, disagreed. She said: "We've been pressing for a delay for some time.
Schools need a chance to introduce a staffing structure which is genuinely the best way forward for their school."
And David Hart, general secretary of the NAHT, now outside RIG, said:
"Three months will make all the difference."
He said Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary, had turned down his calls for an extension in England.