Read that small print;The Green paper;Opinion Extra

12th March 1999 at 00:00
A better career structure for teachers would be welcome, say John Dunford and Nigel de Gruchy. But both union leaders have reservations about the prospect of performance-related pay

How" ask ministers, "can teacher union leaders turn down a pound;2,000 per annum rise for their members?" Answer: "Quite easily - read the accompanying technical paper!" Throughout the consultative exercise, ministers have sought to seduce the unwary teacher into uncritical acceptance of the Green Paper and technical paper proposals by selective presentation.

The key factor in the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers' "guarded welcome" for the Green Paper was the proposal to reward good classroom teaching for its own sake.

Unfortunately, the accompanying technical paper has now clarified that teachers moving through the threshold will be required to undertake additional responsibilities. The Green Paper said the Government was consulting over the issue. The technical paper gives the decision, despite the consultation period not ending until March 31. These teachers will be required to sign a new contract.

"Modernising" the "battered staffroom kettle" may be very desirable, but they will be more than overshadowed by worsening conditions of service. Furthermore, teachers are not fools. They will have noticed that the pay increase is "up to 10 per cent" and not an automatic pound;2,000.

Ministers are wrong to assert that teachers can only pass scale point 9 at the moment by assuming additional management responsibilities. Ministers seem to have forgotten that the current pay and conditions document allows three additional salary points for excellence.

But fewer than 1 per cent - indeed, just a quarter of 1 per cent - of classroom teachers have been awarded such points. This is in stark contrast to the 70 per cent of heads who have received discretionary enhancements from governing bodies. I am sure those heads deserved it.

But I have great difficulty in believing that only 0.25 per cent of classroom teachers were equally deserving.

The special treatment for headteachers in the recent pay award was deserved for the recipients but unhelpful for the rest. Government said heads needed a "something for nothing" rise in order to administer a new "something for something" pay system for the classroom teacher.

The NASUWT advocates linking pay to a sensible, fair and manageable system of appraisal. Let teachers be assessed by the qualities they bring to their work. The NOP poll commissioned by us revealed a majority prepared to accept such an arrangement. Other unions have also put forward similar ideas. Even the NUT executive proposed to its special salaries conference last September that pay could be related to acquiring competencies.

The overwhelming majority of teachers reject payments based on "pupil outcomes" - the modern term for payment by results. The Government assumes that "a sizeable minority" will either not wish or will fail to pass the threshold. Can such a large group be left to languish in a salary limbo?

The appraisal and management performance systems in the technical paper are a recipe for bureaucracy to once again burgeon completely out of control.

The Government seems to have forgotten that Kenneth Clarke made appraisal compulsory in 1991. The Office for Standards in Education reports only a small percentage of schools complying. The system collapsed under its own weight, lack of resourcing and reform overload.

The Government pays lip service to reducing bureaucracy but cannot curb its addition to one initiative after another. Targets are raining down on schools, teachers and pupils by the thousand.

The technical paper's vision of appraisal and performance management, imported into the current chronic, overloaded education system would likely push NASUWT, once again, over the brink and into direct action in order to defend teachers from totally unreasonable impositions, and also to facilitate their ability to function effectively in the classroom.

David Blunkett said when he assumed power that he wished to work with the grain of the teaching profession. if he intends to stand by that statement he must discard the pupil outcome payment-by-results proposals and listen to other ideas. Equally, it is no good for the teacher unions simply to say "No! No! No!' to every salary reform put forward by the Government. We must have constructive alternatives to offer.

The NASUWT collegiate salary policy, linking pay to a fair and manageable system of appraisal offers precisely that constructive alternative. It would satisfy the majority of teachers and would also give the Government the means of ensuring quality was delivered in the classroom.

Nigel de Gruchy is general secretary of the NASUWT

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