Threshold losers give vent to anger

20th July 2001 at 01:00
Protests grow over scheme's unfairness amid fears that funding will not meet the cost of future pay rises. Karen Thornton and Warwick Mansell report

HUNDREDS of teachers could gain nothing from passing the Government's new performance threshold because they have protected salaries.

One headteacher fears that staff who have already been awarded their pound;2,001 threshold bonus could be asked to pay it back, because many education authorities are not aware of the relevant regulation - contained in guidance on pay and conditions issued in June last year.

Mike Layton, head of Foxford school and community arts college in Coventry, said: "I would guess that hundreds, possibly thousands, have applied to go through the threshold completely oblivious to the fact they weren't going to benefit.

"Our view is that there are authorities that haven't picked it up ... and might have to reclaim large sums of money (from teachers) or bear the costs themselves."

Government figures suggest as many as 1,470 teachers have safeguarded salaries, and are eligible to apply for the threshold.

Eight teachers at Holly Lodge school in Smethwick, West Midlands, have between them lost more than pound;15,000 in performance bonuses. All are on protected salaries after moving to jobs with less responsibility when their former schools were reorganised nine years ago.

Mel Roberts, one of the affected teachers, said he would have to move four points up the upper pay spine before seeing any financial benefit from going through the threshold.

"This threshold payment is for classroom performance, not management responsibilities. We have all performed well, yet our reward is a kick in the teeth," he said.

Last week, The TES published research findings showing that external assessment of the threshold had been a waste of money. The report prompted a flood of letters and emails complaining about the scheme.

A Hertfordshire secondary teacher said it has taken a year for an appeal to be heard after no one in his department crossed the threshold.

Buckinghamshire teacher Jasmin Rahman said that she is having to repay her threshold payment after mistakenly being told that she was eligible. She must now re-apply this year.

Unions are warning that lack of funding for the performance pay scheme means that ministers may be raising false expectations among teachers.

Around 194,000 teachers are estimated to have met the threshold standards. From September next year, they will be able to progress up the upper pay spine at an extra pound;1,000 per point - subject to performance reviews by governors.

But the National Association of Head Teachers is warning that the pound;250 million set aside for the scheme over the next two years will fund pay rises for only half of the staff on the upper spine. It expects 80 per cent of staff will earn an extra spine point.

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