On top of the form
Time is running out: your application to cross the pay threshold and earn another pound;2,000 has to be submitted within the next two weeks. You might already be familiar with the the deadline (June 5) and the details (see box overleaf), but it's not too late for some hints on how to complete your form.
Consider the case of Jane who teaches, let's say, astronomy, in a mixed 11-18 comprehensive. She is uncertain whether to apply. She should: she is underpaid and, like the vast majority of teachers, she deserves the award.
To meet the standard for knowledge and understanding, she must demonstrate she has "a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the teaching of her subject" and show she "takes account of wider curriculum developments relevant to her work".
Jane can begin by describing her initial and further academic qualifications, her teaching experience and her professional development activities. As well as demonstrating her general subject knowledge, she should focus on her teaching techniques, giving examples of ways in which her teaching reflects accepted good practice in her subject. She might write: "I place great emphasis on practical work. For example, children in Year 7 are introduced to the use of the telescope, and in Years 8 and 9 they carry out systematic planetary observation."
She can then use evidence from appraisals, lesson observations and Ofsted inspections. And she needs to show that she keeps up to date with her subject: "I am a member of the British Astronomical Association. This group provides me with recent research for use in my GCSE and A-level teaching." She can also refer to any recent external qualification she may be taking, or has recently passed. She can describe how she has used her knowledge to make a contribution to recent curriculum development in the school.
Awareness of national strategies in literacy, numeracy and ICT are important. Jane needs to give examples of ways in which she incorporates them into her work. "I have developed my use of ICT, particularly using Access in Year 9 in our planetary observation database, as well as Internet use in key stages 4 and 5. I have incorporated the school approach to numeracy into my work on astronomical calculation in Year 7."
On the second standard, teaching and assessment, Jane should show how she follows the departmental scheme of work, uses a teacher's planning book and utilises her knowledge of pupils to plan lessons that meet their learning needs. She must also show how she uses "a range of appropriate strategies":
"I design activities which encourage both independent and co-operative work. I use whole-class teaching, individual work, group discussion, oral and written work, role-play and practical work." She should support this with examples: "I have introduced role play into my key stage 3 work"; or "My Year 11 group enjoyed a visit to an observatory and a talk by an astronaut"; or "I use the services of the librarian".
Jane can also explain how she makes her teaching relevant: "I often refer to astronomical matters which are in the news." She should write about homework and make a reference to her classroom management.
Her description of her approach to assessment might say: "I follow the school assessment, marking and reporting policy, integrating assessment into my work, giving frequent, clear and encouraging verbal and written feedback to pupils. I ensure reports to parents give a clear picture of progress and set pupils individual targets for improvement." She can then give examples showing how she has used key stage Sats data, or national value-added schemes such as Yellis (Year eleven indicator system) or Alis (A-level indicator system) to set public examination targets.
Pupil progress, the most contentious part of the threshold application, can present difficulties for teachers who work in schools which have not systematically collected and analysed attainment data.
Jane should state briefly the range of pupils she teaches and choose two or three representative classes of which she is the main teacher. She should give a brief context, set out the pupils' prior attainment, describe their expected progress and evaluate the progress they actually made. She does not need to trawl through statistical data, although she could refer to data set out in the DfEE's autumn package which tracks progress between different key stages or the school's Panda (performance and data). Jane might write: "My 1999 GCSE class consisted of 26 pupils. All achieved a GCSE pass and 21 a higher grade. Their added value, as measured by Yellis, was on average + 0.3 of a grade."
If she is not able to use specific value-added figures, she can still show that her pupils make progress. "Many pupils in my Year 7 class have literacy problems and difficulty in concentrating for long periods of time. Their key stage 2 Sats results were well below national average. Their progress was confirmed by their Year 7 exam results. My head of department observed them in September 1999 and again in April 2000. She recognised that they had made substantial progress, particularly in their knowledge of the subject and in their written work."
Wider professional effectiveness is concerned with "professional development" and making "an active contribution to the policies and aspirations of the school". Jane needs to show that her professional development has improved her teaching - and her pupils' learning: "I attended Inset at Hertford Observatory and was introduced to radio telescope work, which I introduced into my key stage 4 teaching." But professional development does not just mean attending courses. She can refer to working with other colleagues in the school to develop the curriculum and she might refer to mentoring a student, or newly qualified teacher.
Jane has belonged to the school literacy group and the rewards and behaviour working group. She can refer to this work in the section concerned with contributing to the policies and aspirations of the school. The guidance also states "voluntary activities can be cited if they are relevant", so Jane can point to her Junior Stargazers Club and her coaching of the Year 7 hockey team. She can also mention her pastoral work and the ways in which she has helped the school to meet its improvement plan.
Much of what Jane has written earlier will give her headteacher information about her professional characteristics, the last part of the application form. She can, however, use this section to make additional statements. Applicants are given a series of prompts and specific headings.
* Inspiring trust and confidence. Jane can provide evidence of how she encourages pupils to ask questions. She can demonstrate how she develops mutual respect in her classroom and maintains good order.
* Building team commitment. This section is concerned with collaborative work with colleagues and with pupils. Here Jane can show how she works with support staff.
* Engaging and motivating pupils. Jane can refer to her use of a variety of teaching strategies and to her involvement in extra-curricular activities.
* Analytical thinking. Jane can show she is a reflective practitioner who analyses her work in order to improve it. She can refer to the ways in which she monitors pupil progress.
* Positive action to improve the quality of pupils' learning. Jane can demonstrate that she stimulates pupils by gathering up-to-date information on her subject and developing new teaching techniques. She can show that she gives pupils positive verbal and written feedback to improve their work.
I hope Jane passes the threshold. It is a pity that, because of a lack of trust in the profession, she has to jump through eight hoops to receive a pay increase she already deserves.
Martin Titchmarsh is head of the Broxbourne school, Hertfordshire
WHAT A PERFORMANCE
Good honours graduates with seven years' teaching experience, or teachers with nine years' experience, are eligible to apply to cross the threshold.
There are eight national standards grouped into five areas: knowledge and understanding, teaching and assessment, pupil progress, wider professional effectiveness and professional characteristics. To be successful, teachers must meet all eight standards. Evidence presented for one standard can also be presented for another. No additional information should be provided.
Headteachers assess whether their staff meet the threshold standard. Application forms should be "factual and concise" and "contain specific examples from day-to-day work over a period of two to three years". Such evidence must be open to verification. Heads can use their "wider knowledge of the applicant" or draw upon "input from team leaders or other senior member of staff".
Applications can also be verified by evidence from Ofsted inspections or the school's monitoring systems. Although heads are able to take additional information into account, they may do so only "to put an application into context", not "to substitute missing evidence".
The head's judgment is verified by an external assessor who will visit during the autumn term to examine the school's performance data and sample applications. They may observe lessons. He or she then accepts or rejects the head's recommendations. The head informs applicants if they have been successful.
There are no school quotas and school budgetary constraints must not be taken into account, for "financial considerations have no part in the assessment". (The Government has pledged to pay the higher salaries until 2002.) Teachers moving to another school take the payment with them. All successful applications are permanent and backdated to September 1, 2000.