Pay rise to promote excellence

15th February 2008 at 00:00
- Poor take-up for 'excellent teacher' grade prompts salary review - Survey reveals staff put off by label.

Classroom teachers could earn almost pound;54,000 under plans to change the salary structure of the "excellent teacher" grade.

The status was introduced in April 2006 to reward teachers who want to further their careers without moving into management. But new figures show that only 37 people have qualified for the grade - well below government estimates of 5,000 for the first year.

Some have blamed the fixed salary of pound;35,874 for teachers outside London. But in a government-commissioned survey seen by The TES, a quarter of the 1,380 respondents said it was the name itself that put teachers off.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The whole concept is wrong as there is a reluctance among staff to put themselves forward as 'excellent'. Policy-makers do not understand this."

Martine Barraclough, an excellent teacher at Guillemont Junior in Farnborough, Hampshire, said she thought the title sounded "awful" before she qualified, but it had been a positive experience.

"It is a very supportive role and it's nice to be recognised for doing something I love," she said.

It was good news that schools would have more flexibility on pay, she said. "It might encourage more people to apply for the status, which we have found to be fantastic."

The official survey found schools were unsure of the benefits of the role. Nearly a quarter of school leaders who were asked said excellent teacher posts would have no benefit; in Wales, the proportion was more than a third.

But Ms Barraclough said: "Anybody saying they don't know what the benefits of the scheme are should come and visit my school - they could be really surprised."

Another factor is that the role of advanced skills teacher is seen as more attractive: they are paid on a scale of up to pound;59,724 and expected to spend a fifth of their time working with other schools. Excellent teachers do not have to do outreach work, but are expected to mentor staff in their own school.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, has now accepted a recommendation by the School Teachers' Review Body to pay excellent teachers on a scale of pound;37,672 to pound;48,437, rising to pound;53,819 in inner London, from September. Schools will be given the power to decide exact amounts based on teachers' experience.

Barry Fawcett, head of pay at the National Union of Teachers, said: "I doubt giving schools more flexibility about how they pay excellent teachers will make much difference. If teachers thought it was a good idea, there would have been better take-up by now."

But Martin Flatman, project director for the VT Education and Skills assessment agency, said the possibility of a significant pay rise would provide the role with a "new and exciting impetus".

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said a review of the scheme would be carried out by December.

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