Most heads opposed to 'superteachers';BERA conference

3rd September 1999 at 01:00
As the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association gets under way, Karen Thornton looks at papers that are being presented on computer literacy, training for deputy heads, formative assessment and advanced-skills teachers

HEADS and deputies remain overwhelmingly opposed to the introduction of "super teachers", say researchers. But there is much more support from classroom and less experienced staff.

The vast majority (86 per cent) of 800 teachers surveyed by researchers from Chichester University College believe advanced-skills teachers will prove divisive and threaten teamwork in schools. Nor are they convinced that the new grade will help boost recruitment.

But they hope the initiative will help raise standards, by keeping good teachers in the classroom.

The first superteachers - potentially able to earn up to pound;40,000 - took up their posts last September. More than 200 have been assessed as making the grade, and 172 have been appointed to posts in secondary schools in the specialist sector and in education action zones.

The programme extends to all maintained schools this month, and ministers hope to have 5,000 superteachers in post by 2001.

There was widespread opposition to the new appointments from the teacher unions, and the Chichester survey suggests many teachers remain concerned.

But a smaller majority agrees the initiative will raise standards by retaining excellent teachers in the classroom (64 per cent), and will improve the career and pay of the best staff (67 per cent).

Teachers with less than 10 years' experience backed the scheme, with 63 per cent support among those with four years' or less experience. Among long-

serving teachers, 64 per cent were opposed to the scheme.

"The majority of the evidence from this survey indicates considerable disquiet about the proposal," conclude Chichester's David Blake, Vince Hanley, Mike Jennings and Michele Lloyd.

"The Department for Education and Employment may welcome the generally supportive response that appears to come from younger classroom teachers. But, overall, this survey of 800 teachers supports the initial negative responses of the professional associations, and for the same reasons."

Contact Mike Jennings, director, Excellence in Teaching Research Project, School of Education, University College Chichester. Tel: 01243 816256. E-mail: M.Jenning@chihe.ac.uk

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