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Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 17:23 GMT
Heads balloted on action over funding
classroom appraisal
Money insufficient to reward good teachers, heads say
The two unions representing most head teachers in England and Wales are to ballot their members on industrial action.

At issue is what they say is the government's underfunding of merit pay for teachers - which will mean having to divert money intended for books and other resources to "prop up" the pay system.

Governors and parents will understandably be angry

Unions' letter to Tony Blair
In the case of the Secondary Heads Association, this is the first such national ballot it has ever held.

The other union involved, the National Association of Head Teachers, has not held such a ballot for 20 years.

The organisations have about 40,000 members.

In a letter going to MPs the unions' two general secretaries - John Dunford and David Hart - accuse the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, of making a "seriously misleading" statement about the amount of money being made available.

Public servants

They say the cause of the dispute is the government's decision to fund "only some 40%-50%" of the cost of awarding performance-related pay enhancements to staff who meet the criteria for further progression.

"The government's grant of some 250m (for 2002/3 and 2003/4) is woefully short of real need," the letter says.

And in a separate letter to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, they complain that the reality of his government's policies do not match the rhetoric of his own open letter this week about the importance of public servants.

The union leaders say: "Thousands of successful teachers, who will have met the necessary criterion, will not receive performance-related awards, motivation will be damaged and recruitment and retention undermined.

"Alternatively, schools will have to find money from the non-pay part of their budgets."

Parental anger

"Governors and parents will understandably be angry when they see crucial resources for books, equipment and staffing, diverted to meet the government's performance pay system."

They note: "London schools will be as badly affected as any." Mr Blair's children are at school in London.

Setting out the case to MPs, they refer to remarks by the School Teachers Review Body in its recent report recommending a general 3.5% pay rise for teachers, which takes effect from April.

"Sufficient resources should be made available to ensure that teachers who meet the performance criteria for progression on the upper pay scale can in fact progress," the review body said.

In response, Ms Morris had said schools should have enough money in 2002-03 to deliver this recommendation, "if they judge that this is their priority", because they were getting increased funding of 5.7%.


Dr Dunford and Mr Hart call this "seriously misleading".

"The 5.7% is a mirage. Heads will be lucky if they see increases in their 2002/03 budgets of 4%. Many will see less."

Increased basic salaries - plus a requirement to increase pension contributions - would cost schools 5%.

"So schools start the next financial year with a deficit before they start to look at performance-related pay," the unions say.

They say they have made "every effort over many months" to persuade the government of the need for additional funding.

So now their ballots will seek support for a boycott of all performance-related pay activities.

The exception will be assessments of teachers' applications to "cross the threshold" - the first step for experienced teachers seeking to move onto the new, higher pay scale - because that has been funded fully.

See also:

19 Feb 02 | Education
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22 Jun 00 | Teachers Pay
12 Sep 00 | Education
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