Pay plan no cause for celebration

14th November 2003 at 00:00
As expected, there is little to celebrate in the teachers' pay review body report. Heads and governors may feel relieved that the pressure on their budgets is no worse. But they will also be well aware that an award at or below inflation will do little for retention and morale at a time when mortgage rates are creeping up again.

The review body makes much of its favourable comparison of teachers' pay with that of other non-manual workers. But this is a dubious parallel.

Unlike the majority in non-manual employment, teachers are graduates. And these days graduates have greater expectations if only because of debts incurred in higher education.

The review body is right, however, to reject the Government's use of cash limits to restrain the numbers progressing up the upper pay scale. There is legitimate concern about the affordability of the numbers now heading for point 3 and beyond. But it is a bit late in the performance management cycle for the Department for Education and Skills to shift the goalposts.

If the ultimate aim is a system in which teachers, heads and governors are comfortable with the idea of rewards related to performance, what are needed are fair and rigorous procedures, not artificial quotas.

To work towards that goal, the review body proposes a transitional framework which includes agreed criteria, a common system for grading performance and external assessors to ensure fairness. These, it believes, would aid consistency and the objectivity required to avoid the risk of challenge on the grounds of unfairness or discrimination. It would also promote the common standards from school to school that are essential if performance-related point 3 is to have any credibility.

But the DfES, the teacher unions (some of which are barely speaking to one another, let alone the Government) and headteachers' associations have about six weeks to reach the agreement on such a framework and the funding to support it - an agreement that has already eluded some of them for months.

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