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Unions 2000 Tuesday, 18 April, 2000, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Teachers paid to travel
Estelle Morris
Estelle Morris announced a 10m scheme to improve teachers' skills
By Gary Eason at the ATL conference in Belfast

Teachers are being offered hundreds of pounds to go on foreign exchange trips to improve their skills.

In a pilot scheme in nine areas of England, the Department for Education is to give teachers up to 500 to spend as they wish on "professional development".

The scheme will cost the government 10m over two years from September.

The announcement was made by the School Standards Minister, Estelle Morris, at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) annual conference, in Belfast.

She told them she wanted teachers to have the chance to reflect on their own way of working and look at how others taught.

She hoped that the bursaries would provide that opportunity.

Power to the teachers

Teachers working in areas covered by education action zones and those in the government's Excellence in Cities initiative would get up to 700.

The nine pilot local education authority areas are: Croydon, East Riding of Yorkshire, Herefordshire, Leicester City, Northumberland, Rotherham, Southwark, Sunderland and Wokingham.

Ms Morris told journalists the idea was to empower teachers.

"It's actually saying: 'Take charge of your won professional development'," she said.

In her main speech to delegates, Ms Morris concentrated on the new performance-related pay scheme being introduced in England - with a similar scheme in Wales - this autumn.

'Unfair'

It gives an increase of 2,000 to teachers on the top of the current salary ladder who opt to go on to a new, higher pay scale - subject to successful appraisals of their performance.

This was to end the present system by which teachers could only progress above about 24,000 a year by taking on management or administrative responsibilities - which in itself unfairly benefited those in bigger schools, mainly secondary schools.

"We wanted to put teaching at the centre of the pay structure," she said. "We wanted to give a sign that it's good teaching that you get recognised for."

She praised the leaders of the ATL for the work they had done with ministers and officials in fine tuning the system.

The ATL has been the most supportive of the government's proposals among the big teachers' unions.

Challenged

The biggest union - the National Union of Teachers - is trying to mount a High Court challenge to new regulations related to the introduction of the performance appraisals, which it says would mean teachers having to inform on their colleagues.

In answer to a question from a delegate, Ms Morris repeated the government's insistence that there is no quota for the numbers of teachers who might benefit from the new pay scale.

Some 240,000 teachers are eligible to apply. The government has allocated 1bn to pay for the increased salaries over the next two years.

The minister encouraged teachers to put themselves forward.

"It's a chance that should be seized," she said.

She knew that the pace of change was rapid and that the next term would be hectic - teachers' applications for the new pay scale have to be in by June.

But she said it had to be that way if the new salaries were to be brought in next year.

See also:

09 Feb 00 | UK Education
09 Feb 00 | UK Education
13 Apr 00 | UK Education
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