'Tide turning' in favour of pay deal

14th April 2000 at 01:00
Despite reservations unions encourage members to apply for threshold payments.

INTEREST in applying to cross the performance-pay threshold, with its promise of a pound;2,000 salary rise, is increasing despite the Government's insistence that the cash be tied to pupils' progress.

All of the main classroom unions are now supporting teachers in their bids to qualify for the extra money although remaining hostile to the link with results.

Debates over the pay shake-up - one of the biggest reforms to hit the profession in recent years - will dominate this Easter's union conferences. Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "I think the tide could be turning."

He said that since details had been finalised preoccupations about the money being linked to pupil progress have tended to disappear. "It's not surprising when you think of the cases where teachers have taken on extra work for nothing but the promise of a promotion point," he said.

Some 4,000 of the union's members have attended regional conferences on pay and 200,000 copies of threshold advice have been issued.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said his members were reporting "widespread interest" from teachers. "I think there will be a very high take-up," he said.

Information to be issued by the National Union of Teachers will make clear that the application decision rests with individual teachers. Doug McAvoy, the genral secretary, said: "There is a low-key encouragement to apply."

Applications have to be submitted by June 5. In some cases it is expected that entire primary schools and whole departments will apply together.

The NUT looks certain to vote for strike action at its conference to protect its members from being forced to assist heads to appraise colleagues. The union has sought a High Court ruling on the issue and expects a hearing next week.

And it may also vote for a ballot on a one-day strike over the principle of performance pay - it would be the first national stoppage since the mid 1980s.

Mr McAvoy said: "We know this system will not work. It won't help schools be more effective. It will cause suspicion and division."

NUT left-wingers, with the campaign group STOPP (School Teachers Opposed to Performance Pay), are urging a walkout when education minister Estelle Morris addresses the conference in Harrogate on Easter Sunday.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers - the classroom union most enthusiastic about the reforms - will, at its conference in Belfast next week, encourage its members to apply.

At its conference, the NASUWT will ask members to back a ballot for a work-to-rule in the face of rising bureaucracy. If sanctioned, action will include a refusal to chase up absentee pupils, no photocopying, no exam administration and no inputting of pupil data.

Mr de Gruchy pledged no child would suffer: "This will be industrial action with a halo."

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