Schools would collapse without part-time teachers. Their numbers have risen sharply from 85,000 to 93,000 during a single year as better pay and changes to pension rules make a part-time package more attractive.
Part-time teachers are as dedicated and hard-working as their full-time colleagues, yet they remain an exploited group. They are not always paid for the ever-growing burden of work done outside the classroom and some miss out on pay because they work shorter, afternoon sessions rather than morning ones. And sometimes they are made to feel like second-class citizens. Margaret Drummond, a part-time teacher from Redbridge, east London, told The TES recently: "I have been given grotty groups, no room, less training."
So the news in this week's pay review body report that part-time teachers, 97 per cent of whom are women, will at least get a fair deal on pay is long overdue. The estimated cost of fulfilling the review body's recommendation that they should be paid for hours worked out of school is pound;46 million. The Government should pay it in full.
Elsewhere, the recommendations in the report are more controversial. During the past decade, there has been a huge shift in professional attitudes. Few will now quarrel with the review body's view that some teachers are better than others and that the good and outstanding should be rewarded. Talented young teachers should be promoted ahead of less able older colleagues if we are to keep newcomers in the profession.
The difficulties start with the use of pupil results to decide who gets a pay rise. If the measure is value-added or pupil progress, then grammar schools and those in leafy suburbs will cry foul. If it is raw results and no allowances are made for pupils' backgrounds, those in the desolate inner-cities will protest. However performance is measured, there will always be great teachers in the most difficult schools who struggle to make a difference.
Good teaching can't be judged simply by number-crunching. Teachers need to be confident that it won't be before ministers go ahead with the report's demand for performance reviews for all.