Sounds good in theory...

11th December 1998 at 00:00

maths teachers at a Manchester high school -like all good mathematicians - wanted to see detailed figures before passing judgment on the Government's proposals to "modernise" the profession.

Raising status, improving recruitment and boosting pay were all welcomed. However, there was hostility to the fast-tracking proposals that could see higher salaries for those judged good teachers. How far, they asked, will Pounds 19 billion spread across the nation's schools?

The Government's latest glossy missive was thought to sound good in theory, but vague in practice. Scepticism was the order of the day at Parrs Wood school.

Anna Ward, in her fourth year as a teacher, said: "I don't have a problem with accountability. But with appraisal I can foresee problems. What are they going to be looking for?" Colleague Heather Vaughan said too much depended on how good the head was. "We need to get the leadership sorted out before we start looking further down the line. The head has to realise other people's ideas can work as well as their own. Teachers should be allowed to keep that independence."

With fast-tracking she wondered how the space will be found on the career ladder for the 30-something high-flyers. And in 10 years' time what happens to those who have sprinted to the top and whose energy is starting to flag?

Philip Deacon, a teacher for 20 years, believes the Green Paper Teachers - meeting the challenge of change is laudable and good, but will fail to tempt maths graduates away from computing, IT, the City and banking.

He also feared that for every teacher happy with his or her raised salary there will be others depressed at missing out. "Fast- tracking" could also prove divisive in the staffroom.

Sally Hughes is deputy director of maths and has reached the point 9 on the salary scale thanks to her extra responsibilities. She rejects the idea of performance-related pay in the proposals.

What she found positive was the idea that teachers would be encouraged to stay at the chalkface. Also the Government has promised more money and less bureaucracy.

"All teachers should be paid more and it shouldn't be based on performance, " she said. "If teachers are not performing to a satisfactory level than that should be dealt with in other ways."

And she added: "The proposals don't make me think 'whoopee, the future is rosy and I want to continue in education for the rest of my life'. I would like to work abroad, to experience a different culture and be paid a huge salary. "

Head of department Cath Alley welcomed the idea of reversing the downward trend in teaching over the past 10 years with better prospects for people coming in and working their way up the career ladder.

She added: "I would rather see more promoted posts on the structure so that young teachers can be given more responsibility and more money."

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