Pay challenge for Liddell

11th September 1998 at 01:00
Neil Munro assesses the prospects of funding the changes trailed in the Millennium Review

The talks between the teaching unions and education authorities due to start at the end of this month following the Millennium Review will depend crucially on the colour of the Government's money - if any.

Both sides are united in urging ministers to kick-start the process of paying teachers more, creating new "superteacher" posts, introducing greater flexibility into the secondary promoted post structure and strengthening primary school management.

There has been no official response other than an ambiguous comment from Helen Liddell, the Education Minister, who pointed out that the Government had already committed an extra pound;1.3 billion to education over the next three years. The implication was there was no more money in the kitty.

But just over 30 per cent of the extra funding, released in the Treasury's comprehensive spending review, has still to be allocated. So the implication could be that there may be more money - but within the pound;1.3 billion.

Elizabeth Maginnis, the leader of the education authorities, will argue that the changes require the Government to provide "funding for modernisation", a phrase redolent of the Chancellor's various spending statements.

"We shouldn't suppose the comprehensive spending review has exhausted the supplies of money," Mrs Maginnis said.

The pound;1.3 billion from the Treasury includes pound;629 million for expenditure on schools. Only five items have so far been accounted for, however. There is to be pound;185 million for school buildings, pound;66 million for classroom assistants, pound;49 million to reduce primary class sizes in the early years, pound;36 million to extend the early intervention scheme to five years, and pound;62 million for the National Grid for Learning.

That leaves an unallocated sum of pound;231 million. But ministers want to use some of that money in unspecified amounts for a range of activities, likely to be unveiled gradually over the next few months as Labour slugs it out with the SNP for dominance in the Scottish parliament.

The recipients of these further goodies were named in July without any price tag as "comprehensive piloting" of full-service schools, in-service training for teachers and heads, provision for special educational needs, a "radical programme" of alternatives to exclusion and "other key measures for raising attainment and promoting excellence".

This is unlikely to leave much for investing in restructuring pay and careers. The Millennium Review noted that savings could be found from slimming down the promoted post structure in secondary schools, which could be switched to other areas.

But any savings would be offset by the bill for new management posts in primary and special schools, and would not accrue immediately.

The funding required to grease the palm of national negotiations between unions and management is considerable. The agreement that the 11-point salary scale for unpromoted teachers should be shortened will not be very costly, but paying more to those on maximum basic pay will be.

There are currently 18,059 teachers (full-time) at the top of the salary scale out of a total of 25,000 unpromoted teachers. An additional pound;2,000 a year, for example, to take them from pound;21,954 to pound;24,000 would add pound;37 million to the pay bill. The question is whether the pound;2,000 would be seen as meeting the review's objective of "rewarding the classroom teacher on a basis befitting a professional employee".

In total there are 18,632 teachers on the five rungs of the promotion ladder below headships: senior teachers, assistant principal teachers, principal teachers, assistant heads and deputes. Salaries for these posts alone cost pound;500 million, part of which the management side at least hopes can be freed up to fund the changes the authorities seek.

The review agreed there was a need for a school to have a headteacher and a class teacher, but suggested that all other posts should be a matter for each school to decide.

This might be in accordance with a "pointage system" which would give each school points dependent on its size and social circumstances, in line with agreed national criteria.

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