Morris seeks flexible package to ease crisis

10th August 2001 at 01:00
Pay board asked to investigate offering teachers local bonuses and overtime. Nic Barnard reports

OVERTIME for teachers, more pay for heads and local bonuses are being planned by Estelle Morris in a bid to crack the recruitment crisis.

Ministers are also considering reimbursing the controversial membership fee for the General Teaching Council and rethinking much-criticised performance pay arrangements.

Ms Morris, the Education Secretary, has asked the School Teachers' Review Body to look again at these issues as it considers next year's salary award.

The move comes a week after the Government confirmed plans to pay housing subsidies to teachers and other "key workers" in the South-east, where soaring house prices are driving many away.

But with Ms Morris also urging restraint and saying that cash for government initiatives must be protected, unions said she had failed to grasp that the key to solving the crisis was to pay all teachers more.

Ministers are already planning legislation to allow successful schools to opt out of national pay scales. Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, warned against listening to the "siren call" of deregulation. "You have to regard education as a national service rather than a regional franchise," he said. Unions said there was already scope for pay flexibility but it either was not used or had not worked.

The STRB has been asked to look at ways of making teachers' pay "simpler and more flexible" with greater "responsiveness to local needs" following last year's creation of a pound;5,000 recruitment and retention allowance.

Ms Morris asks for "flexibility ... to pay allowances to staff undertaking heavy levels of cover" and a shake-up of out-of-hours work payments. This is an idea already put forward by local authority employers. But teachers have said they want to work less, not get paid for overtime.

She also calls for "more flexibility" in setting school leaders' salaries. The pay review body has been asked to take into account costs of GTC registration when it recommends next year's pay rise. Teachers had complained at having to pay the pound;23 annual fee when membership is compulsory. So far only a minority have returned their direct debit mandates to the GTC. Now it seems the fee could be returned to them in their pay packet.

Arrangements surrounding the pound;2,000 performance pay threshold could also be slimmed down following complaints that they were an expensive and bureaucratic waste of time. An Exeter University study found that external assessors hired at a cost of pound;12 million to vet headteachers' decisions disagreed with only 71 out of almost 20,000 cases.

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