New pay is a recipe for trouble

2nd December 2005 at 00:00
It may be all over bar the shouting. But the shouting - and the sulking, and maybe the striking - is going to be the start of the problem in many schools. The new teaching and learning responsibility payments are more or less a done deal. English heads have pushed through the staffing review demanded by the government, to its ludicrously tight deadline. Management allowances are history from December 31, replaced by TLRs. Wales gets the luxury of another term to sort it all out.

It is difficult to argue with the principle that a billion pounds of public money should be shifted from largely administrative tasks (mostly outlawed by workforce reform), instead directly supporting pupils' learning. And yet... the after-effects are likely to hang around education like a bad smell. Hit people in the pay packet, and you might as well slap them publicly with a wet fish. Whether the cash disappears next week or three years hence, it's a blow to self-esteem, even if it isn't meant that way and the changes have been well-managed. And there are thousands of losers.

Most schools have done a fantastic job, pulling off difficult changes with little private sector equivalence. Some avoided aggro by swopping staff from the old payments to the new, though this was neither easy nor encouraged.

But everywhere, goodwill is seeping out of the system. Many schools, particularly smaller ones, have more losers than winners. Some heads railroaded plans through. Classroom unions are blaming each other for agreeing to the deal, or not taking part at all. Consequences come in many forms. Expect strikes, industrial tribunals, souring staffroom relationships, and teachers working to rule. Older staff are planning early escapes.

Once more, schools have delivered the almost-impossible. What they need now is what they should have had to implement all this: sufficient time.

Relationships need rebuilding. Teachers need to feel valued once more. And heads - shattered by too many initiatives to implement in a single term - need to get new systems working properly, before the next lot of changes.

It's time for the Government to deliver a Christmas message of peace so schools can rebuild goodwill.

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