Unions reeling from Estelle's pay gaffe

14th September 2001 at 01:00
Education Secretary's promise of quicker progression for teachers up the pay spine is not part of Government plans. Warwick Mansell reports.

EDUCATION Secretary Estelle Morris is facing the wrath of teacher unions and employers after mistakenly putting forward attractive proposals to boost the pay of young teachers.

Ms Morris told BBC 1's Breakfast with Frost last week that she planned to ask the School Teachers' Review Body to consider cutting the time it takes new teachers to reach the threshold from seven years to five.

The move came only days after chief inspector of schools Mike Tomlinson had provoked a furore after suggesting that 40 per cent of teachers were dropping out within three years of joining the profession.

But The TES understands that Ms Morris's proposal, which had not been costed, was a gaffe. The Government has no plans to include the change, which is backed by both unions and employers, in its annual submission to the STRB.

Graham Lane, of the National Employers' Organisation for School Teachers, was incandescent. He said: "The prospect of rapid progression up the pay spine is enormously important to young people thinking about joining the profession.

"To rule this out just smacks of ignorance of what is needed on teachers' pay."

In a joint submission to the STRB, all five classroom unions in England and Wales say that all teachers should be able to reach the threshold in five years, rather than the current seven. The move is also backed by employers. Mr Lane said he was seeking an urgent meeting with union leaders to consider an "unprecedented" amended joint submission to the review body, calling for a shorter lower-pay spine.

Meanwhile, teachers look set to be offered a three-year pay deal from 2003 under radical changes to the salary-negotiating mechanism, outlined in last week's White Paper.

The paper sets out plans for the STRB to take a "more strategic overview" on pay. Last year's settlement in Scotland, where teachers were awarded a salary increase staged over three years, is cited as an example of the possible structure of future negotiations.

Ministers have also moved to take some of the detail of the negotiations from the STRB, after it chairman Tony Vineall claimed that the review body was becoming overloaded with minor details over teachers' pay.

The proposal is that consultations on standards for the threshold, fast track and advanced skills teachers schemes, and "minor or consequential" changes to pay and conditions, will still be subject to consultation, but not through the STRB.

Classroom unions this week confirmed, in their STRB submission, their opposition to the use of the controversial pupil-progress measure in threshold assessments. Instead, the system should focus on assessments of teachers' performance.

The Department for Education and Skills refused to say what would be in the sbmissions.

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