Paying a few more 'will not help'

11th December 1998 at 00:00

If the Government is going to make a new pay structure, then it must be fair and inclusive, say staff at Bourne County primary school in Eastbourne, East Sussex. They said it must also be accompanied by measures to improve working conditions if recruitment and retention were to improve.

"It is not helpful just to pay a few teachers more," said Kate Forester, an infant teacher. Her colleague was sceptical of the Government's claim that most teachers would benefit. "I don't know anyone who has received superteacher status," she said.

Bourne school is in the county's third-poorest borough. Of its 500 pupils aged three to 11, many are from-single parent families and a high proportion have special needs.

Alison Lockwood, like most of the teachers, was sceptical that performance could be measured accurately across differing schools. "You could be a brilliant teacher but have children who aren't very bright. The only way it could work is if each teacher had a set of objectives based on what their class was like." She warned that teachers who had a poor relationship with the head could lose out.

Most of the staff believed that the move was driven by finances rather than education. "It is a Treasury drive. They can't afford to give everyone a decent rise," said one Bourne County teacher. Another said: "Policemen train for 31 weeks and start on Pounds 17,000. We train for four years and start on Pounds 14,700."

But there was recognition that something needs to be done. "I don't want to be negative," said one teacher. "The status quo wasn't an option."

John Kenward, the headteacher, said the Green Paper was "a step in the right direction". But he warned that unless appraisal was handled sensibly,"it could cause more problems that it solves".

There was a consensus that more than just pay needed improving. Gillie Alden stressed the importance of class sizes, resources and building repairs. "If you had ambitions for more money you wouldn't come into teaching in the first place."

She was also more supportive of pay being linked to performance, "I don't think it is as divisive as other people think it is. If it is done the right way, I think it is healthy."

However, she was worried that the workload would increase. "They say the money is for people who don't want to take on extra responsibility. But they still want you do do extra things. "

Extra help from teaching assistants was welcome but Donna James, a classroom assistant, felt left out, "Ancillaries should be more valued. We need to feel part of the staff."

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