Refusal to cross the threshold

16th June 2000 at 01:00
I HAVE read with empathy the thoughts of those teachers who have agonised about applying to cross the threshold.

Personally, I have never been in doubt about what to do. I've heard all of the arguments. Failure to apply will affect my career prospects: (I'm 47 and a head of department. Career prospects?) How will I feel, I'm asked, if colleagues perceived to be unworthy are successful applicants? I'll tell you how I'll feel.

I'll feel that a small-minded, ill-conceived piece of dogma has been successful in making us scrabble around in a most undignified manner for meagre pickings - and that David Blunkett will be laughing up his sleeve.

I am only too aware that many colleagues need this money and - above all - they deserve it. I know that it's the only thing on offer and that it might affect our pension, always provided we live to draw it. I know that practically every application will be done with the heaviest of hearts. So why be so pig-headed about this?

The threshold is the doorway not just to performance-related pay but to payment by results. It is tempting, but incorrect, to conflate the two. Every application will be seen by the Government as an endorsement of its policy.

Question 3 on the application form asks individual teachers to talk about their individual contribution to pupils. This is repellent and anti-educational. The potential development of this individualistic atitude among teachers is truly frightening.

And it's not just teachers who will be caught up in this desperate need to prove themselves. When we read in The TES about the primary school that ran the Sunday coaching session for national tests, nothing could have confirmed more clearly what we are doing to kids with all of this.

War-weary colleagues say that they've heard too many apocalyptic visions of the future of education to be daunted by yet another. But look at what has happened in FE, where pay, conditions and contracts have been torn to shreds. Fall for this, and we could be going the same way.

The flaccid lack of resistance from the unions - and I speak as a National Union of Teachers lay official - has not made matters any easier for classroom teachers. Doug McAvoy tells his membership that PRP is wrong but to apply for the threshold anyway; Nigel de Gruchy says anything that then distinguishes himself from McAvoy - and Blunkett and Estelle Morris rock with laughter because they've got away with it all so easily.

So, I haven't applied because, quite simply, it's wrong. I'd like the money for me and my family, but I won't play the grubby game. I'd go on strike if only I were given the opportunity. And, yes, I will still be talking to anyone who applies; being taken hostage doesn't make you a criminal.

Jon Berry

61 Cambridge Road

St Albans, Hertfordshire

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