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Where most staff earn pound;25 an hour

Performance pay has brought rich rewards to teachers in the independent college sector. John Izbicki reports.

PERFORMANCE-related pay, the cause of so much aggravation among state-school teachers, is being applied quietly and without fuss at the private colleges which push 11,000 students through their GCSEs and A-levels each year.

The annual meeting of the Conference of Independent Further Education colleges in Arundel heard that most teachers earn up to pound;25 an hour - rising to pound;30 in the London area.

One North London "crammer" teacher who was in constant demand for his "superb results" put in about 50 hours per week earning around pound;47,000 a year - as much as the head of an average comprehensive.

But the conference heard that private colleges were now dealing with fewer "crammers" - where pupils with poor A-level grades signed up for an intensive course before resitting the exam - and attracting more foreign students.

The 36 colleges - where fees range from pound;5,000 to pound;8,000 per course - were now filling their institutions with students from overseas who wanted to perfect their English, sit British examinations or foundation courses and gain admission to a UK university. Some were now almost entirely devoted to an international clientele.

All the students at Brooke House College, Market Harborough, are from overseas; Concord College at Shrewsbury has more than 90 per cent from abroad and Cambridge Tutors College which, despite its name, is in Croydon, has more than 70 per cent. This compares with the 28 per cent of boarding-school pupils who are overseas students.

A growing proportion of these students are from mainland China. Each year, Cambridge Tutors admits around 70 Chinese tudents from Beijing, Shanghai and other parts of the mainland - and more are on the waiting lists. High-flying Chinese youngsters, armed with decent A-levels, are now beginning to form orderly queues at UK universities.

Paul Kitchener, registrar of Brooke House, said one Chinese student at the college had produced a geography project "that was a clear A-grade". He was extremely bright "and treats the GCSE like an IQ test".

"How," Mr Kitchener wanted to know, "can one calculate value-added in such a case? These young Chinese students - boys and girls alike - have to do all exams in a foreign language. League tables can't be applied to foreign students."

Mr Kitchener's college provides students with a foundation course that is accepted by a number of universities. Three Russian students have been admitted to De Montfort University and another has gone to the University of Central England. But it is not just the new universities that are welcoming these students. Manchester University is taking a Chinese woman for a teacher-training course.

It was the unrehearsed clarion call of one woman, sounded during CIFE's private business meeting, that triggered the association's list of "good news". Gilly Green, who is hanging up her gown after 25 years as principal of Collingham College, West London, declared that CIFE colleges were on an upward spiral.

"Our numbers are up and our GCSE and A-level results are the best ever. Although we are non-selective, we are obtaining results on a par with the finest grammar schools. We account for a spectacular 90 per cent of overseas students winning admission to the country's best medical schools and we have led the way with Easter revision courses."

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