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Tougher to boost pay

Standards review could make it harder to cross the salary threshold. Graeme Paton and Karen Thornton report

Classroom teachers could find it tougher to gain threshold payments, worth pound;2,000, under new plans to review standards and performance-related grades.

The new Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) is launching a review of threshold and other professional standards, including QTS, as part of the Westminster government's five-year plan to reform the fragmented system of in-service training for teachers.

But it is movement across the threshold to the upper pay spine, worth more than pound;2,300 to successful teachers this year, that could come under scrutiny.

Pay and conditions, such as threshold requirements, are not devolved to the National Assembly. Teachers with at least six years' experience can apply to their head to pass the performance threshold, jumping from a minimum of Pounds 28,005 to pound;30,339.

Department for Education and Skills figures show that 95 per cent who applied in 2004 were successful. As of March this year, there were 8,865 teachers in Wales with up to five years' service who will become eligible for threshold, and around 3,500 with six to 10 years' experience who have yet to achieve the standard.

Professor Alan Smithers, from the University of Buckinghamshire, said:

"Progression over the threshold is almost seen as automatic - there is no doubt the rules governing the move need to be more explicit. Threshold should be seen as a specific career step rather than the current fudge."

The TDA consultation, launched today, says threshold should "reflect the challenge and progression" of a teacher with several years' experience more closely. "The standards will need to include responsibility for their own professional development, the contribution to the professional development of others, and the policy development of the school."

Earlier this year Ralph Tabberer, chief executive of the TDA, formerly the Teacher Training Agency, said that staff should undergo continuing professional development training to win pay rises. In Wales, teachers can apply for grants to meet their individual training needs from a pound;2 million Assembly government-funded pot. In 2004-5, around 2,875 individual teachers in 962 schools benefited.

The TDA review will also set new standards for those working towards advanced skills teacher (AST) status and develop the new excellent teacher scheme, expected to be worth at least pound;35,000, when it is introduced next year.

Teachers will be able to apply for excellent teacher status two years after reaching point 3 on the upper pay spine.

The National Union of Teachers Cymru is opposed to the status, saying the use of the term for a few "is insulting to the rest of our excellent and valued teachers".

It will be campaigning to ensure that governing bodies do not include excellent teacher posts in revised staffing structures due to be completed by March 31. There are currently no AST posts in Wales.

But Tim Cox, national executive member of classroom rival NASUWT Cymru, said it would be a mistake not to establish excellent teacher posts. Welsh teachers who meet the criteria could end up moving away to jobs in England.

Even small rural schools could employ such teachers by sharing with others in federations, he said. "There is already a proven need for teachers like these to mentor staff and the newly qualified."

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