Roman road to performance pay

7th April 2000 at 01:00
MOST people would agree small class sizes are a good idea - but teachers' enthusiasm for such things has not always been so strong.

The Verulamium Museum in St Albans, Hertfordshire, has alerted The TES to the fact that the Romans had a form of performance-related pay. The imperial system, however, had more to do with quantity than quality. The bigger the class, the more money the teacher got paid.

An elementary teacher was paid 50 denarii (the Roman coin originally worth 10 asses) per boy per month. This increased to 75 denarii for teaching arithmetic, 100 for architecture, and 200 for grammaticus (Greek or Latin language and literature with geometry).

As is the case today, statistics could tell depressing stories when it came to comparing teachers ith other workers.

A Roman elementary teacher needed a class of 15 to get the same pay as a mule-driver - and many classes would have been as small as four or five.

At this time, during the reign of Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD, there was runaway inflation. The money didn't go far. Footwear prices ranged from 60 denarii for a pair of women's boots to 150 for the best-quality shoes.

While civic leaders were expected to be learned, formal education was still a luxury of the rich.

David Thorold, the museum's assistant keeper of archaeology, said: "Towards the end of the Empire, education was not regarded as important as keeping the barbarians at bay and, as a result, teaching was not seen as a high-status profession."

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