Playing with the zeros

4th September 1998 at 01:00
The millennium review's booty will have to be seized from somewhere. Brian Magill takes a creative look at squaring the books

If you rob Peter to pay Paul, Paul is usually quite happy. That sums up the terms of reference of the much vaunted millennium review. We have all been well prepared for the unsurprising news that no extra money will be available for teachers' pay. Rather, Paul's pay rise will be Peter's cut - "a zero sum game" in the jargon.

In making the adjustments to maintain existing costs, the promoted post structure looks like being a starting point. Since the number of promoted posts is heavily weighted to the secondary sector, the scope for rationalisation is reduced in primaries.

But how should the "booty" be shared - in proportion to savings made or flat rated? If the former, it is goodbye to the common scale. If the latter, the extra amount payable to secondary teachers will be roughly halved. There are four strands to the restructuring:

* The number and salary level of the promoted posts.

* The amount of non-teaching time associated with the promoted posts. By reducing this time the total number of teachers in the school can be reduced.

* The replacing of scale conservation by cash conservation for all staff which will have the effect of an employer clawback of future annual pay increases until all staff are on the correct scale point.

* Transitional costs. Although such costs may be considerable, they are often dismissed by the proposers as "one-off" and not attributable to their new scheme.

Here are three examples which are the product of a hyperactive calculator and a willingness to think the unthinkable. Only the effects of the first two of the four strands are included . The following school profile has been used: roll - 1,100; staff: HT, DHT, three AHT, 17 PT (subject), nine APT (subject), four ST, two PT (guidance), six APT (guidance) plus 32 non-promoted staff deployed over 19 departments. Total 75 staff. Annual wage bill Pounds 1, 815,300.

Example A

The size and relative status of subject departments are an obvious target. The public is not sympathetic to the idea that the principal teacher of English is paid the same as the PT of an "unimportant" subject. A minimalist solution would be to modify the PT scale to reflect such concern but this would not produce enough "booty".

The idea of faculties has been mooted, with 19 departments restructured as eight faculties of nine or 10 teachers. The faculty head (FH) would have enhanced status, pay and slightly more non-teaching time than a PT. They could replace AHTs and be paid accordingly (Pounds 31.7K). A scale for FH could adjust pay according to school roll. Each faculty might have two APT-type posts associated . A further four APTsSTs for whole-school issues could be appointed.

The pay of guidance staff would have to be adjusted. It has long been unclear why there are both PTs and APTs guidance since their workload and responsibilities are not significantly different. So abolishing the distinction and simply having the post of guidance teacher (GT) paid on the APT scale would make sense. The structure would thus be: HT, two DHT, eight FH, 20 DFHST, eight GT and 35 non-promoted staff.

The unmodified payroll would be Pounds 1,745,700. Therefore the saving of Pounds 69,600 could be shared among the 63 lower paid grades, adding Pounds 1,100 to their scales. This would deliver 57 winners and 14 losers if the head was constrained from exploiting the opportunity to "refocus" on a wholesale basis.

Example B

As every good shaman knows, there is a danger that when one holy cow is killed the natives may get a taste for it. Thus the guidance structure could be abolished or it could be paid for in a different way. What is essentially a social work task is delivered and paid for by the educational service.

The cost and responsibility should therefore be that of social work rather than education. When combined with Example A, the unmodified payroll would be Pounds 1,707,300. The saving would add Pounds 1,750 to the scales of the 62 lower paid staff. There would be 51 winners and 20 losers.

Example C

It may not be necessary to reduce the number of promoted posts. It has often been argued by headteachers, usually in an effort to convince a sceptical staff of an unpalatable suggestion, that "we are all teachers regardless of what posts we hold".

The promotion structure has ensured that the abilities and talents of individual teachers have been exploited by placing them in positions of leadership. That being so the same highly motivated candidates would want promotion even if no extra remuneration were on offer. So if the total payroll for the school was averaged out it would result in a salary of Pounds 24, 200. There would be 49 winners and 26 losers.

Brian Magill is an assistant principal teacher of mathematics in South Lanarkshire.

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