Pointers through the pay jungle

21st March 1997 at 00:00
Since 1993 for classroom teachers (and a year later for heads and deputies) governing bodies have been required to give all professional staff an annual formal statement detailing their pay and how it was assessed for the year ahead from September. Reviews are also needed whenever a teacher enters service or takes up a new post.

This is why governing bodies need a pay policy which is umbilically linked both to the management plan and to the school budget. An effective pay policy indicates clear procedures for pay determination and presents a detailed timetable for action. It must be underpinned by principles of equity and equal opportunities, adhere to national requirements, and include staff consultation, appeals and regular review mechanisms.

The statutory School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document and guidance provided in the Department for Education and Employment circular 496 set out the national "rules" that must be applied to pay reviews.

Governing bodies must inform classroom teachers of their pay each year in writing.

Your pay policy should say how the governing body intends to use the discretionary elements of the points system which determines teachers' pay.Is your approach to reward teachers for extra responsibilities or excellence in teaching?

A recent survey showed that 67 per cent of teachers remained on the same point from one year to the next and 26 per cent gaining an additional point, mainly for experience or additional responsibi lities. Few additional points were awarded under other criteria and only 4,000 teachers were awarded the contentious half-points. And, while excellence points have been available for three years, only 2 per cent of teachers receive them.

Governing bodies were expected, last September, to agree performance criteria for heads' and deputies' pay next September.

The basis upon which their performance is to be reviewed must be agreed and written down. This is no easy task. The circular calls this "a sensitive matter", pointing out that, in the past, governing bodies have found this difficult and that there has been "a lack of consistency of approach".

When deciding pay of the head and deputies governing bodies are to have regard "in particular, but not exclusively" to:

* The responsibilities of the post;

* The social economic and cultural backgrounds of the pupils attending the school;

* Whether the post is difficult to fill;

* Whether there has been a sustained high quality of performance by the head or deputy.

While the first three points may be influential in determining the salary of a new head or deputy, the fourth is controversial.

The demanding task of agreeing personal or school-based criteria, reviewing progress towards objectives and making a final end-of-year performance assessment must be carried out before any increase - even on grounds of the first three criteria or any other - is allowed. Establishing performance criteria such as pupil attendance, national curriculum test or exam results, financial management, dealing with parents requires careful thought.

New regulations proscribe heads and deputies from being present at governing body discussions of their pay.

This annual exercise before any head or deputy moves up the pay spine could strain relations. Governors are informed that "it is not good practice to set targets which are unrealistic or depend on factors outside the control of the individuals".

Governing bodies would be wise to make their policy clear in advance on whether or not increases in pay will follow automatically where the targets are met.

Some governors' pay policies rule out performance pay awards to one section of staff while they are denied to others. It is, therefore, clear to their heads in advance that there will be no increases on the basis of the performance review itself, though there could still be increases for extra responsibilities or other factors once the performance review has been carried out.

Governors are likely to create resentment if targets are met in the expectation of a pay rise which cannot be afforded.

Salary review committees also need to maintain appropriate pay differentials between heads, deputies and other staff. If heads negotiate big pay rises for themselves - as some have - others may see this as unfair.

The School Teachers' Review Body recently reiterated an earlier recommendation that teacher governors should not be involved in discussions about heads' and deputies' pay. Their view is that it is incompatible with normal principles of managerial responsibility and accountability for "subordinates" to be directly involved in determining the pay of their superiors.

In the past, the Education Secretary has refused to outlaw teacher governor involvement and the matter has been left to the discretion of governing bodies.

Governing bodies faced with worsening pupilteacher ratios, bigger classes, budget reductions and poor teacher morale should think twice before being seduced by the pay flexibilities in the new regulations.

They are regarded by many teachers as divisive and contrary to the professional culture. They are not, in most cases, affordable, and they will lead governors into a minefield.

Terry Mahoney

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