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Welsh secretary accused of inaction

WALES'S education secretary faces growing criticism for refusing to fight for the country to set its own performance-related pay standards, writes Nicolas Barnard.

Critics say Rosemary Butler has passed up a chance to demand devolution of the criteria which teachers must meet to get a pound;2,000-a-year pay rise, following the Government's High Court defeat by the National Union of Teachers.

She told the Welsh Assembly that nothing had changed following the judgment that the standards set by Education Secretary David Blunkett were unlawful.

Opposition assembly members believe she should have at least pressed Mr Blunkett to devolve the threshold standards to Wales - one option open to him following the ruling.

Mrs Butler is seen as vulnerable in a summer reshuffle by first secretary Rhodri Morgan.

Faced with two options to get the threshold standards legally on to the statute book, Mr Blunkett chose the 1991 School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act, which remains with London, rather thn the 1986 Education Act, which set up annual appraisals and has since been devolved to Cardiff.

Assembly members agree that pay and conditions should remain with Westminster, but opposition parties argue that threshold criteria are part of the standards agenda which was handed over. The assembly has already voted its opposition to any link between pay and pupil results.

Plaid Cymru spokesman Gareth Jones said: "Rosemary Butler should turn away from the Department for Education and Employment now on this issue and develop a teacher appraisal system relevant to us in Wales."

Tories and Liberal Democrats also urged Ms Butler to go to Mr Blunkett and demand that he drop pupil performance or devolve the whole issue to Wales.

But a spokeswoman for Mrs Butler - who was on holiday this week - said: "The 1986 Act relates to annual appraisal - it's not the appropriate Act. The 91 Act would allow this one-off threshold payment, but that has not been devolved to us."

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