Too many cooks

16th March 2001 at 00:00
TAKE pound;25,000. Add to a team of professional and hardworking individuals. Stir, divide into portions... and then stand well back as the arguments start.

Giving cash bonuses to markedly improved schools is an absolutely brilliant idea. Brilliant, that is, until you start divvying up the money among the very group you have spent months lovingly forging into a team effective enough to win the award in the first place. Do dinner ladies get a share? Does everyone get the same? Do you still have a team at the end of it?

The Kentuckian precedent is not encouragig (page 8). Even the school where it worked best endured three staff meetings and a ballot. In another, the cooks stopped speaking to everyone else. One principal quietly added his own money to the pot to keep everyone happy. Subsequently, Kentucky found it harder to recruit heads.

The English version may avoid such pitfalls. Here, governors allocate the money and it is recommended that all staff are treated equally, unless individuals have demonstrably contributed more. Let's hope this makes it work. Schools deserve more carrots and fewer sticks.

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