Teachers' pay: Tories to scrap national pay deals

9th October 2009 at 01:00
Gove revolution would trigger widespread industrial action

Original paper headline: Tories to scrap national pay deals

National deals that guarantee pay and working conditions for all teachers will be abolished if the Conservatives win the next election.

A radical set of announcements at the Tory party conference promised to give thousands of schools the right to set their own pay scales, raising the risk of widespread industrial action by classroom teachers.

The Tories plan a rapid expansion of the academies programme, which hands individual schools power over pay and conditions, in a controversial bid to raise standards.

All primaries and secondaries in special measures for more than a year will be shut and reopened as academies, said Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary. Governing bodies will be replaced, which will lead in almost all cases to headteachers being forced out.

Any school that is ranked outstanding by Ofsted will be automatically approved to become an academy if it wants to without the need for an outside sponsor.

Other schools can bid to become academies, which are funded directly from central government, as the Conservatives seek a fundamental shift of power away from local authorities.

Mr Gove also said he wanted to simplify Ofsted inspections so that they focused only on teaching and learning, with outstanding schools being made exempt from inspections.

A Tory party source said that they were confident that large numbers of schools would take the opportunity to gain greater independence.

"Over time this will see the end of the national pay deal as more schools are given the freedoms enjoyed by academies," the source said.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, described the policies as the "dismantling of state education". She said: "The pay and conditions document is part and parcel of the state system. It gives transparency, fairness and equity.

"If you leave it to headteachers and governing bodies you will get massive inequity and the demoralisation of teachers. There will be higher payments for the few and poor payments for the many. Evidence shows that leadership will benefit, while the classroom teacher falls to the bottom of the pile."

There have been numerous locally organised strikes over plans to replace schools with academies.

A rapid expansion of the programme is almost certain to lead to more strikes and the prospect of nationally coordinated industrial action.

Mr Gove's announcements followed a speech by George Osborne, shadow chancellor, earlier in the week, where he said that all public sector workers earning more than 18,000 a year would have their pay frozen in 2011.

Teachers, who are currently in the second of a three-year pay deal, were told by Government in the summer that they would receive a 2.3 per cent pay rise in September next year. Mr Osborne said the Conservatives would honour existing deals.

Vernon Coaker, schools minister, said: "We accepted the recommendation for a tough but fair three-year pay deal for teachers until 2011 and we are not going to break our pay promises to teachers.

"The Conservatives have confirmed they want this to be the last national pay award for teachers and they will scrap the National Agreement on terms and conditions too."

Undermining national pay deals would also spell the likely end of the social partnership, which has brought the unions and Government together in decisions over working conditions.

There are currently 219 schools in special measures, 100 of which have been on the list for at least one year.

John Dunford, general secretary of heads' union ASCL, said "threats" to remove the heads of schools in special measures would stop good leaders from applying.

While heads will welcome more independence, schools must still be encouraged to collaborate, he added.

"If the new freedoms are given to a large number of schools in ways that increase competition, the maintained school system will be polarised and it will be the children at the most challenging schools that will suffer."

Mr Gove also said he wanted to simplify Ofsted inspections so that they focused only on teaching and learning, with outstanding schools exempt from inspections.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of teaching union ATL, claims the Conservative plans are "too simplistic". She said: "They ignore the inconvenient truth that some of the academies are failing schools."

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