Not a threat but a chance;Platform;Opinion;Pay Award 99

5th February 1999 at 00:00
Education Secretary David Blunkett says the recent pay recommendations take a modern approach to rewarding teachers, which is not just based on targets and results

WHEN I accepted in full the pay recommendations of the School Teachers' Review Body on Monday - an above-inflation increase worth around pound;800 a year from April 1 to the average teacher's pay packet - there were reports that some unions were angry because we had also dealt with the long-standing problem of primary heads' pay.

When, in addition, we published the technical consultation paper following our December Green Paper, there were those who argued that there was "nothing for teachers to wait for".

Both reactions were wrong and surprising. Let me deal with the heads' issue first. I asked the review body last year and this year to look at the problems of recruiting primary headteachers. I did so publicly - and with the full knowledge of every single teachers' union leader.

The review body responded this year with recommendations of a new pay structure which will be more closely linked to performance. The new structure means that primary heads will on average get an extra 6.5 per cent, with more for the poorest paid heads. Headteachers will also have a key role in implementing the new performance-management system.

Classroom teachers have at the same time had an increase which is significantly above inflation. It is not phased for the first time since 1995. And local education authorities have had an extra pound;1.1 billion (plus extra cash to cut class sizes) which will cover the cost of the award fully twice over.

But it is not the end of the matter. In December we published our Green Paper on teaching. I know that it is being widely debated and discussed in staff rooms across the country. We have had more than 13,000 responses already - and we have only just begun a series of regional conferences to discuss the proposals we have made.

The Green Paper covers a range of issues. It offers improvements in teacher training, more classroom assistants and better working conditions for teachers. More controversially, it does propose that we give teachers who are teaching well the opportunity to gain much better rewards.

Most teachers are dissatisfied with the current pay structure. I believe that most also recognise that any new structure will need to reward teachers who are doing a good and effective job in the classroom as well as those who take on extra responsibilities such as leading a secondary school department.

Teachers' salaries are subject to an upper limit of pound;23,000 (from April) under the current pay system by experience and qualification. Without promotion to management responsibilities they will stay at that level, with increases only possible in line with annual awards. I don't think that's fair - and I want those teachers to have the chance to earn more and have real career choices.

Our proposals would allow about 250,000 teachers - including 84,000 at the threshold - to apply to cross a performance threshold bringing an initial higher salary uplift of up to 10 per cent - and access to a new range up to pound;35,000.

The new standards we published on Monday recognise four key areas in which teachers would be judged in putting themselves forward for threshold assessment. Yes, pupil performance and exam results, but linked to individual targets and prior attainment. Teachers will also be assessed on their subject and specialist knowledge, their effective planning of lessons (including how they cater for pupils with special needs) - and on their professional effectiveness.

This is a modern performance system which is based on a range of factors, including but not exclusively targets and results. One union leader said this week that teachers couldn't be expected to control the achievements of children. Well, of course, but most parents - and teachers - would rightly say that teachers should, can and do make a big difference to the achievement of their pupils.

Some also argue that the money is not there for the new system. Their argument is based on very poor maths indeed. We have set aside an extrapound;1 billion, to introduce the Green Paper proposals. These changes will be in addition to plans for classroom assistants and class sizes, which will be funded from separate pots. The money is there.

But let's be clear what's involved. We certainly do not want unnecessary bureaucracy. The new and more effective appraisal system for every teacher would be an integral part of schools' existing arrangements for monitoring and assessing performance. For the performance threshold, some degree of outside assessment seems right to ensure that teachers are judged fairly against national standards. Over time, I expect a majority of teachers will benefit from the new system and in doing so could gain an increase of 10 per cent initially - of the order of pound;2,000 - and the chance to earn up to pound;35,000.

These increases will be additional to annual pay awards. No teacher will be obliged to apply to cross the threshold if they don't want to do so. In practice, I am sure most will see this as a real opportunity and a chance to move on from the current salary limit.

The proposals in the Green Paper are a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to improve the standing of the teaching profession. They will help to make teaching a more attractive career and will help to retain good teachers in teaching. I hope that teachers will read our proposals in full. Far from being a threat, they are a real opportunity. I believe that when we introduce the new pay structure next year, it is an opportunity which teachers will recognise and take.

David Hart, 17 Document of the Week, 21

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